International Overdose Awareness Day 2019

Ending Overdose Deaths Starts with Addressing Substance Use Disorders

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I’m thankful we’ve designated a day–August 31–to focus on our nation’s overdose epidemic. To address the devastating impact these deaths have on the lives of tens of thousands of Americans and their families each year. But, frankly, it warrants our critical attention and investment every day.

Overdose is the leading cause of death among Americans age 50 and under. More than car crashes, more than any disease. In my home state of Illinois, 2,700 families lost a loved one to overdose in 2017, and that number has increased, not decreased since 2016. 

The news appears better on the national level. Thanks to naloxone, the best emergency defense against opioid deaths, around the country, overdose fatalities have decreased–down more than 4 percent last year. 

The Surgeon General urged those at possible risk of overdose to carry naloxone with them at all times. Many communities are providing training for how to administer the life-saving drug. And, research shows that the combination of readily-available naloxone, along with education and training, decreases overdose deaths.

Decreasing fatalities from overdose is priority #1. But naloxone doesn’t address the underlying issue of substance use disorders. 

Overdoses are continuing to rise–we are just making inroads toward decreasing their fatality. 

As executive director of Gateway Foundation in Aurora and Joliet, I know first-hand that addiction is the most serious health issue facing our nation. To achieve results that are sustainable, to make real differences in the lives of people battling substance use disorders and their families, we must increase our focus and investments on reducing the use of drugs and alcohol. We must improve access to treatment and recovery. 

We have to pull this tragedy out by the roots.

I’ve witnessed the difference it makes when we tackle addiction head-on with comprehensive treatment solutions tailored to the individual. 

Illinois recently passed legislation that made our state the best in the country for aligning mental health and substance use parity to remove barriers for access to treatment. Gateway Foundation actively is involved in the Illinois Taskforce as well as a number of other efforts working to ensure that managed care organizations adhere to the parity legislation. And, we are part of the national movement to end stigma related to substance use disorder and mental health. We continue to advocate for people that have limited access to treatment.

We know that the best way to end overdose deaths is to prevent overdoses in the first place. And, the best way to do that is to provide easily accessible, stigma-free medical intervention, treatment, and support for substance use disorders.

Gateway Foundation’s evidence-based treatment has saved lives every day for more than 50 years. If you have questions about substance use treatment, call Gateway Foundation today at 877.505.4673 or visit Gateway Foundation offers free assessments as well as resources to help educate communities and families on substance use and can collaborate with you or your organization to provide speakers and resources for workshops or events. 

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