President Clinton returns to Arkansas to talk about the opioid epidemic

CREDIT: KTHV
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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) -- Opioid abuse is a growing public health crisis across the nation. That's why President Bill Clinton was in Little Rock on Monday, joined by a panel of health experts, to talk about solutions to the epidemic.

It was part of the 6th Annual Clinton Health Matters Activation Summit. Gillian Sealy, National Director of the Clinton Health Matters Initiative, said the opioid epidemic is a leading health concern. 

“It’s something we need to talk about and address immediately,” said Sealy.

Health experts from across the country spoke about their research on opioid and prescription drug addiction. Panelist Dr. Judith Feinberg from the West Virginia University School of Medicine said training on addiction is an issue.

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 “We really need to have enough people trained and capable of providing care, including primary care doctors,” said Feinberg.          

Panelist Dr. Kim Janda from The Scripps Research Institute said new vaccines and other lifesaving treatments are out there for people who are ready to change their life.

“The addict has to make the desire to get off the drug,” said Janda. “I have vaccines developed for lots of different drugs, but if you don’t want to get off the drug or have the will to get off the drug, it’s not going to be useful.”

Panelist Dr. Richard Rawson from the University of Vermont said the treatment options out there are effective, but sometimes inaccessible.

“Treating this is less complicated then treating diabetes, and it’s less complicated than treating many types of cardiovascular disease and hypertension,” said Rawson. “They are very affective and they are saving thousands of lives; we just need to get people access to these treatments."

Sandi Coyle attended the event as someone who used to struggle with opioid addiction. Now, she shares her story of recovery and is working to expand a program she works with called Phoenix Multisport. It’s a program that connects wellness, health, and the community to fight addiction. She believes it is a unique way to help end the epidemic.          

“I’m one of 23 million people in long-term recovery,” said Coyle. “I found that by attending to emotional wellness and physical wellness, that I was able to feel empowered."