Appalachia engages nation to focus on prescription drug abuse
by Cris Ritchie
Citing the importance of a drug-free population to sustainable economic growth, the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) has agreed to serve as Operation UNITE’s exclusive educational partner for the National Rx Drug Abuse Summit next spring.
The Summit will take place April 10-12 in Florida, the heart of a prescription pill pipeline responsible for bringing approximately 60 percent of diverted drugs into the Central Appalachian region. The event will convene public and private stakeholders from across the country in sessions that highlight prevention, education, treatment and law enforcement efforts in addressing the prescription drug epidemic.
“The abuse of prescription medications has a far reaching impact on Appalachia,” stated ARC Federal Co-Chair Earl F. Gohl. “It devastates families, creates burdens for communities, and undermines the employability of the workforce.”
“ARC strongly supports Operation UNITE’s initiative to build interstate partnerships at the Summit, and supports the continuing education of medical professionals and community leaders engaged in the fight against drug abuse,” Gohl added.
“Diversion of prescription medications from their legitimate medical uses has become an epidemic that requires a coordinated national effort,” said Karen Kelly, director of UNITE. “Attendees will have an opportunity to learn from state and national leaders, law enforcement officials, medical professionals, community advocates, treatment experts, educators, private industry leaders, and others who are finding success in battling this epidemic.”
“In addition,” Kelly continued, “this Summit is intended to foster better understanding and cooperation between all groups – not just the medical community – and how that cooperation can lead to successful outcomes. The Summit will include discussion targeting issues faced by private sector employers.”
Conference programming, guided by a 10-member National Advisory Board, will be responsive to the needs of educators, community advocates, private industry, civic leaders, law enforcement officials, treatment experts in addition to the broad range of health care providers who represent the entire continuum of care.
UNITE has partnered with Inquisit, a division of Amerinet, to provide continuing education credits for a variety of professionals, including attorneys, counselors, social workers, physicians, physician assistants, nurses, nurse practitioners and pharmacists.
“The impact of prescription drug abuse is devastating,” Kelly said. “The economic cost of drug trafficking and abuse is $215 billion in the United States every year. Insurance companies alone lose $72.5 billion per year because of diversion. But the worst part is that more than 27,000 people lose their lives to addiction annually.”
“It is time to tackle this issue through a coordinated, multi-disciplinary approach,” Kelly continued. “Many of the nation’s foremost experts will be leading conversations during the Summit.”
Forty-two percent of the ARC region’s population is rural, compared with 20 percent of the national population. Currently 22.8 percent of ARC counties are considered economically distressed.
The ARC is a regional economic development agency that represents a partnership of federal, state and local government. ARC’s mission is to be a strategic partner and advocate for sustainable community and economic development in a 205,000-square mile area spanning 420 counties in 13 states.
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