NGA Panel: "Curbing the Opioid Epidemic: A Discussion with Governors on the Front Lines"

The opioid epidemic was at the center of last week’s National Governors Association Summer Meeting in Providence, Rhode Island. Over 30 governors from around the country attended the meeting to hear successes and lessons from other states addressing the opioid crisis.

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker (R), North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper (D) and Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo (D) participated in a panel discussion on “Curbing the Opioid Epidemic: A Discussion with Governors on the Front Lines”. White House Office of National Drug Control Policy Acting Director Richard Baum moderated the panel and discussed state-based solutions, such as last year’s NGA Compact to Fight Opioid Addiction. Additional speakers included Dr. Michael McGinnis from the National Academy of Medicine. Dr. McGinnis said a paper entitled Marshalling Physician Leadership to Counter the Opioid Epidemic would be released soon

Governor Cooper, a member of President Donald Trump’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis, called for more treatment of opioid addiction – a point made during the commission’s first meeting in June. Governor Baker, another member of the President’s commission and supporter of limits on initial opioid prescriptions, proposed a different approach: address the overprescribing of opioids and encourage more research to understand addiction. On the other hand, Governor Raimondo emphasized the stigma of addiction, the success of peer recovery organizations and Rhode Island’s collaboration with CVS Health to fight the opioid epidemic. Although not a member of the panel, NGA Chairman Governor Terry McAuliffe (D) shared Virginia’s approach, “You are going to lose your medical license if you prescribe incorrectly.”

Several governors also urged Congress to consider the opioid epidemic in the national healthcare debate, warning that many states rely upon Medicaid for opioid addiction treatment. Three governors – Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy (D), Montana Governor Steve Bullock (D) and Governor McAuliffe – proposed sending a letter on behalf of NGA to Congress opposing the recent Senate healthcare bill. However, the letter failed to gain enough NGA supporters.