NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - "We can be the generation that ends the opioid epidemic," President Donald Trump said.
The opioid epidemic, already declared a public health emergency, contributed to 64,000 drug overdose deaths in 2016. Trump's commission on combating the problem is recommending nationwide drug courts to help addicts get treatment rather than sending them to prison.
"There's no problem with drug diversion court if that helps somebody and saves a life," said DEA Special Agent-in-Charge Stephen Azzam.
The drug court recommendation is one of the boldest on the list from the commission.
"The DEA's goal is to go after the traffickers and to get those fools off the street and get them out of here," Azzam said.
Azzam said he's also glad the commission wants to educate everyone involved, from the users to the doctors prescribing the drugs.
"When we can educate the doctors, the pharmacists and all is positive. The other people we need to educate is the manufacturers," Azzam said.
The commission wants the feds to partner with appropriate hospitals and organizations to expand the use of recovery hospitals and organizations to expand the use of recovery coaches, which they say has been very effective in some hard hit areas. The commission also recommends expanding the availability of long-term treatment for addicts.
"Medicaid will pay for a client to come into treatment for one month to four months, but after that they will not pay for treatment, so it's not taken into to treatment that the client is homeless or unemployed," said Michelle Gaiennie Hamrick, executive director of clinical services at Bridge House/Grace House. She says it's a problem that must be addressed as a community.
"At what point do we say enough is enough? Don't just be on the sidelines. Be a part of it and put some skin in the game. Be a part of the solution," he said.