HHS Region VI Summit at UT Southwestern targets strategies to combat opioid crisis

DALLAS – Feb. 20, 2018 – Officials from five states including Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas gathered at UT Southwestern Medical Center today for a regional summit with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to address the nation’s $78 billion opioid crisis.

Over 200 public health practitioners, doctors, pharmacists, law enforcement personnel, first responders, congressional leaders, tribal and state officials, and others dealing with the opioid epidemic gathered for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Region VI Opioid Summit’s daylong series of presentations and panel/breakout discussions.      

“Our country is facing a crisis of addiction that has resulted in 115 Americans dying every day from opioid abuse. This epidemic is sweeping across the country, wreaking havoc in our communities, and destroying families. A problem of this magnitude demands our immediate attention. That is why I am pleased to be a part of today’s important discussion to get to the root of this problem and end this crisis,” said U.S. Congressman Pete Sessions (R-Texas), Chairman of the House Committee on Rules, who led a panel on congressional perspectives about the crisis. 

Sessions assembled for the Region VI Opioid Summit Tuesday addressed a variety of topics, including:

  • Updates on national and regional data on the extent of the problem
  • Updates on regional efforts to address the crisis
  • Strategies for preventing opioid misuse and abuse
  • Options for recovery systems of care
  • Real-world examples from first-responders
  • Reviews of telemedicine and other options for rural and special populations, including Native Americans
  • Updates on pain management best practices

Today, Dr. Daniel K. Podolsky, President of UT Southwestern Medical Center, joined the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Regional Director Dr. David Teuscher and leaders from the Region VI U.S. Public Health Service, including Capt. Mehran Massoudi, Regional Health Administrator and Commander Karen Hearod, Regional Administrator for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to provide opening remarks.

“We are all motivated to provide relief from suffering. It is clear to everyone that this is a complex and multilayered challenge with many factors contributing to this epidemic. Effectively dealing with these factors to accomplish real progress will not be easy, but the conference provides the needed opportunity to ask difficult questions, to become more informed, and to review and refine our approaches to the opioid crisis,” said Dr. Daniel K. Podolsky. “It will take a comprehensive effort and the work of all stakeholders to address this growing problem in a meaningful way, and this is why we are here.”

U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome M. Adams provided video remarks. The Substance Use Prevention Coalition of Collin County hosted a livestream of the event in Allen, Texas, the entire day where members of the Coalition and others came together to listen in and discuss community efforts on combatting the opioid epidemic.

Every day, more than 115 Americans die after overdosing on opioids, according to the National Institutes of Health National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). According to NIDA:

  • Roughly 21 to 29 percent of patients prescribed opioids for chronic pain misuse them.
  • Between 8 and 12 percent develop an opioid use disorder.
  • An estimated 4 to 6 percent who misuse prescription opioids transition to heroin.
  • About 80 percent of people who use heroin first misused prescription opioids.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that the total "economic burden" of prescription opioid misuse alone in the United States is $78.5 billion a year, including the costs of health care, lost productivity, addiction treatment, and criminal justice involvement.

“Regional meetings like this provide a unique opportunity to learn from local, state and tribal experts who confront opioid misuse on a daily basis. When we all come together, we can exponentially expand our knowledge and ability to address this devastating crisis,” said Dr. David Teuscher.

In response to the opioid crisis, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is focusing its efforts on five major priorities:

  • Improving access to treatment and recovery services
  • Promoting use of overdose-reversing drugs
  • Strengthening our understanding of the epidemic through better public health surveillance
  • Providing support for cutting-edge research on pain and addiction
  • Advancing better practices for pain management.

“We are excited to host a group of dedicated and passionate practitioners from many disciplines across our five-state region to generate action strategies for combating the devastating opioid epidemic ravaging our country. Together, we will work to identify best practices and lessons learned so that our combined efforts can be used work to combat the opioid epidemic,” said Capt. Mehran Massoudi.

The National Institutes of Health, a component of HHS, is the nation's leading medical research agency helping solve the opioid crisis via discovering new and better ways to prevent opioid misuse, treat opioid use disorders, and manage pain. To accelerate progress, NIH is exploring formal partnerships with pharmaceutical companies and academic research centers to develop:

  • Safe, effective, non-addictive strategies to manage chronic pain
  • New, innovative medications and technologies to treat opioid use disorders
  • Improved overdose prevention and reversal interventions to save lives and support recovery.

Today’s event is being followed up Wednesday, Feb. 21, by the UT Southwestern Department of Anesthesiology and Pain Management’s 2018 Pain Symposium, specifically designed to serve the health care community by introducing participants to the best evidence-based practices in the cost-effective treatment of pain management.

“State legislatures and medical boards are taking action to place more restrictions on opioid prescriptions and track patients who get them,” said Dr. Carl Noe, Director of UT Southwestern’s Eugene McDermott Center for Pain Management, who sat on the best practices panel and will lead Wednesday’s symposium for physicians. “But the epidemic won’t be resolved until we can better educate doctors and the public about pain management alternatives."

About UT Southwestern Medical Center

UT Southwestern, one of the premier academic medical centers in the nation, integrates pioneering biomedical research with exceptional clinical care and education. The institution’s faculty has received six Nobel Prizes, and includes 22 members of the National Academy of Sciences, 17 members of the National Academy of Medicine, and 14 Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigators. The faculty of more than 2,700 is responsible for groundbreaking medical advances and is committed to translating science-driven research quickly to new clinical treatments. UT Southwestern physicians provide care in about 80 specialties to more than 100,000 hospitalized patients, 600,000 emergency room cases, and oversee approximately 2.2 million outpatient visits a year.