Addressing the Epidemic in Opioid Overdoses and Deaths

Dr. Michael Flaherty

Dr. Michael Flaherty


The White House and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have declared a national epidemic in opioid abuse, overdose, and deaths. The CDC has estimated that over 48,000 individuals died in 2014 from heroin and prescription opioid overdoses. Workforce expansion and education have been identified as key priorities in any long-term solution.

The White House has given increasing attention to this crisis. The President’s 2017 Budget, for example, calls for $920 million to support cooperative agreements with the states to expand treatment capacity and make it more affordable. In terms of workforce expansion, the President is also calling for a $50 million increase in the National Health Service Corps to expand access to substance abuse providers.

Annapolis Coalition board members Dr. Leighton Huey and Dr. Michael Flaherty have been active, as have many others, in developing national strategies to address the workforce dimensions of the epidemic.

Dr. Leighton Huey

Dr. Leighton Huey

Through a collaboration with faculty and trainees from Boston University, the University of Toronto, and the University of Connecticut, they have developed workforce policy recommendations that would reform how medical students, medical residents, and practicing physicians are educated along a UME-GME-CME continuum in identifying patients at risk for addiction, prescribing opioids appropriately, and using other pain management strategies. These experts are also calling for more active involvement of first-responders in community-based interventions and joint federal, state, and local efforts that bring treatment providers and law enforcement together to reduce overdoses. Their recommendations will be presented in the coming month at the World Congress on Continuing Professional Development in San Diego, CA.

Dr. Flaherty also has served as a clinical consultant to the National Heroin Task Force. This Presidential directed Task Force of 25 Federal Agencies, co-led by the Office of National Drug Control Policy and the Department of Justice, has just published their Final Report and Recommendations. This has been provided to members of Congress and distributed to the states. Among its many recommendations, it calls for better-trained workers, more peer supports, and local “360 Degree” community-based efforts to halt the epidemic.

Details of the Presidents 2017 budget as it pertains to Opoid abuse is available online.

The National Heroin Task Force Report is also available online.




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