White House Joins Opioid Abuse Fight - KTVN Channel 2 - Reno Tahoe Sparks News, Weather, Video

White House Joins Opioid Abuse Fight

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The Obama Administration is ramping up its fight against opioid drug abuse across the United States, starting with a declaration Monday announcing this week (Sept 18-24) as Prescription Opioid and Heroin Epidemic Awareness Week.

Northern Nevada is well aware of the issue following an alleged prescription drug bust here in Reno, but the national efforts could mean more resources for the Silver State. Members of President Obama's cabinet and agencies are spending the week highlighting work being done across the country to address the national epidemic.

During a conference call Monday, Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced her department's plans. She and other DOJ staff will host more than 250 events across the country highlighting the issue and possible solutions.

"We'll have trainings, forums, movie screenings, community round table discussions..." says Lynch. She will be in Lexington, Kentucky Tuesday to deliver a policy speech on the DOJ's strategy and resources for combating opioid addiction. There are also plans to announce grant funds for law enforcement agencies across the nation on top of launching a new awareness website, "We are in the midst of an epidemic and sadly no one is immune," says Lynch "No individual, no family, no community."

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack continues to advocate for more access for treatment in rural and tribal communities across the country. In early September, Secretary Vilsack attended Governor Brian Sandoval's Prescription Opioid Drug Abuse Prevention Summit in Las Vegas after meeting with members from the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony. Monday, Secretary Vilsack announced $4.7 million in grant funds for 18 different projects in 16 states that focus on distance learning and tele-medicine. Basically, the programs use technology to either teach, or provide care, to people in relatively far away places. One of those programs is in Elko, Nevada. That is on top of grant dollars for 80 similar program grants announced by the USDA in July. Two of those projects are for Nevada. 

The White House is pushing for $1.1 billion in additional funding for treatment facilities as part of the President's budget, but it would need congressional approval. 
"The president's budget will expand by hundreds if not thousands," says Sec. Vilsack, "the number of locations where people can seek help."

"Certainly if there are opportunities to work with the administration to get more resources here," says Governor Brian Sandoval, "We'll absolutely go for that."

In the meantime, Governor Sandoval is reviewing recommendations that came out of his Prescription Opioid Drug Abuse Summit in Las Vegas, which brought together more than 500 professionals from law enforcement, to health care providers, to manufacturers, all discussing ways to combat Nevada's opioid crisis. Governor Sandoval says he called for the conference after seeing the news about an alleged prescription drug ring being broken up in Reno.

"Looking forward we've realized we've got to do more. One Nevadan a day dies from an opioid overdose," says Governor Sandoval, who says Nevada is actually ahead of the national curve when it comes to fighting opioid drug abuse.  He says he is still working on his legislative package for the 2017 session, which he says will have "aggressive legislation" to combat the issue based on the recommendations from the drug summit.

"Not taxes," says Sandoval, "I think the resources are there we just want to make sure they're pointed in the right direction," adding that his office is still gathering input from stakeholders, "I don't want to do anything for the sake of doing something, I want to make sure there's some things that have been tried and true in other states. So we are reaching out." 

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