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The nature and scale of the opioid crisis demonstrates that it not only resulted from widespread issues in opioid prescribing, but that it also demanded and continues to demand solutions at the federal policy level. Following the long history of both successful and unsuccessful policies and actions, the opioid epidemic is far from being resolved. October 2017 marked an ominous turning point, when President Trump declared the crisis a “public health emergency”, invoking a renewed surge to address the issue. To evaluate the current role of the U.S. government in it’s management of the epidemic, it is worthwhile to take a look at some of the most recent federal initiatives directed at slowing the crisis:
2017 DHHS “Opioid Strategy”: aims to alleviate social and economic consequences of opioid addiction, supports cutting-edge research in alternative pain treatments, strengthens public health data reporting, and targets high-risk populations
2017 FDA Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy (REMS): delivers prescriber education programs on the risks of opioid medications as well as safe prescribing and safe use practices
2018 SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act: includes provisions for Medicare reimbursement for telehealth programs, supports an innovative telemedicine-based program that trains remote healthcare providers in treating patients
These are only a few examples of the most recent and relevant federal efforts to tackle the crisis. Overall, it seems that these newer policies and plans of action differ from earlier initiatives in that they seek to address a wide variety of issues that have stemmed from the opioid crisis while also employing more innovative approaches and strategies to do so. It is important to recognize that such efforts are perhaps better suited and more promising in tackling the crisis as a whole. Instead of focusing on dosage regulation and direct health issues, they look to address social and economic consequences while looking at additional methods of opioid overprescription beyond strict guidelines on dosage amounts. They also support new and alternative treatment options in order to encourage a movement away from medication, and promote the use of new technologies. However, this means that they also require more funding, resources, and monitoring, and adjustment. The federal government holds a great responsibility in managing the national public health crisis of opioid overdose, and has shown historically strong initiative in talking initiative to address the issue. The next steps in ensuring that these recent initiatives are successful in the long-run include a continued effort to support these programs through funding, close monitoring, and further policy innovation.