New President Must Move Quickly On Opioids

Just a few weeks from now, Donald J. Trump will become our 45th president. He won with the support of working-class Americans who feel as if the world has left them behind.

His voters have many concerns, but one that has hit their communities especially hard is the opioid addiction epidemic. Some of the hardest-hit areas are in the Rust Belt states that won Trump the election - Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky and Michigan. To his credit, the president-elect saw this crisis for what it was early on in the campaign. He spoke often about the victims of this epidemic and the toll it has taken on their families and their communities. That's why I believe that he will remember their voices when he's in the White House.

President-elect Trump talked about some of those voices often while on the campaign trail. One of his main promises was to build a wall along the Mexico border. He says that will keep heroin out of the country. I'm not an immigration expert and I'll leave it to others to argue over the effectiveness of U.S. immigration policy, but making drugs harder to obtain is certainly a worthy objective. I'd like to offer four additional ideas as well.

First, his plan must focus on prevention. That means more than just keeping drugs out of America. It means taking steps to stop someone developing the disease of addiction before it starts. The key driver of this epidemic has been the over-prescription of opioid painkillers. Any comprehensive plan must require prescribers to go through training on proper pain management methods. And it must require doctors to consult a Prescription Drug Monitoring Program before writing a prescription for an opioid or sedative, which can help spot early signs of addiction.

Second, the president and Congress must expand access to the miracle drug naloxone, which can reverse the effects of an overdose and save a life. Every law enforcement officer in the country should carry naloxone and it should be dispensed to anyone who feels they need it, without a prescription.

Third, President-elect Trump must close the treatment and recovery gap. It is unconscionable that only 20% of those suffering from a substance abuse disorder have access to treatment. Many are turned away because of a lack of beds or insurance coverage. And treatment must recognize the chronic nature of this disease, and include wrap around recover services. The president and the Congress must find ways to expand in-patient and out-patient services, and to increase the number of trained addiction healthcare providers. They we also demand full mental health parity - insurance companies must cover treatment for this disease like any other.

And fourth, for once and for all, the stigma unjustly associated with those afflicted with this disease must end. No American should suffer in silence and shame, simply because they have a disease.

I'm happy to say, the Trump campaign has already embraced many of these ideas. Trump has even promised voters already - in New Hampshire last summer - that he would "spend the money" to help expand treatment. These are ideas that can and should win support from both parties - because as we've all learned, this disease is devastating millions of families. It doesn't see red or blue, black or white, rich or poor. It can hit anyone.

Like Trump, I began my career in business. As the CEO of a large hotel company, I learned that words without action are meaningless. I learned that to solve problems, you must have a strategy and a way to carry that strategy out. I believe President-elect Trump can use the skills he used to build his company to help solve the addiction crisis. The lives of so many depend on it.

Shatterproof is ready to work with him and Congress to turn the words into action.