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Cabinet Secretary Visits Quincy To Discuss Opioid Epidemic

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price visited Quincy Thursday morning to hear how local organizations are dealing with the rise in opioid-related deaths nationwide.

He spoke in a private round table with representatives of local law enforcement, emergency responders, and health-care providers. Price said the opioid crisis is one of the top three priorities for his agency.

“And it is so for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that we are losing this battle across the country," Price said. "The numbers are staggering. In 2015, 52,000 overdose deaths in this nation, about 33,000 of those due to opioids.”

Price noted his department is trying to address the issue on multiple fronts, including identifying ways to prevent addiction to opioid-based painkillers, developing non-addictive pain-management methods, and expanding the availability of anti-overdose medication.

The commission created by the President to study opioid addiction released an initial report this week. Price said he’s in the process of reviewing it. 

“I think that my take-away right now is that we are of one mind on the severity of the problem and of the challenge that we face," he said.  

One of the commission's recommendations is for the President to declare the opioid crisis a national emergency. It would give him and the Cabinet more far-reaching powers to address the issue. Price said he believes that giving the states additional flexibility in spending Medicaid dollars would make it easier to invest more in the fight against opioid addiction and overdoses.

Price's visit was at the invitation of U.S. Rep. Darin LaHood, D-Peoria.