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Dr. John Fothergill: Everyone can make a difference in opioid fight



For the Monitor
Saturday, October 13, 2018

A White House conference, “Best Practice in Combating the Opioid Epidemic,” was held in late September in Washington, D.C. The conference, attended by 130 people from throughout the United States, included behavioral health and medical providers, law enforcement, state and county government representatives, and clergy.

President Donald Trump has made this a high priority of his administration and meets with high-level staff both individually and as a group on a weekly basis. The federal government realizes the opioid epidemic is a national problem that must be solved on the local level. This conference was intended to educate the attendees as to the programs and grants available to fight the battle against the opioid epidemic.

Attending the conference was both educational and affirming for me, as a medical professional. In New Hampshire our laws regulating the prescribing of opioids has us ahead of many states. However, like many states, New Hampshire struggles to provide access to medical-assisted therapy and behavioral health. In response to these needs, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is providing grants for telemedicine to provide care to rural areas. The Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration is also relaxing regulations so that technical assistance and grant dollars can be offered to a much larger audience.

Chronic pain is often treated with opioids and, while this may be a reasonable treatment plan, it should not be the only, or best, solution. The Veterans Administration has been working with veterans suffering from chronic pain and has found that yoga is a safe and effective means of easing pain and reducing the need for opioids. We need to reduce opioid use but we cannot, and should not, abandon the many patients presently on opioids.

The opioid epidemic is a troubling challenge facing our society today. Fortunately it is a bipartisan issue and therefore funding has been forthcoming. However, dollars alone are not enough, and if we are to be successful, we need all hands on deck. Everyone needs to get involved.

A simple way to get involved this month is to check your medicine cabinet for outdated or discontinued medications and return them on National Drug Take-Back Day held on Oct. 27. If everyone gets involved, we can make a difference.

(Dr. John Fothergill, a Colebrook Republican, is a member of the N.H. House Health, Human Services and Elderly Affairs Committee.)