Opioid misuse and addiction is a national crisis worthy of worthy of the attention it’s starting to receive both locally and nationally, a panel of experts said Thursday night.
“For me to put it into context, the opioid crisis we discuss tonight is the largest drug epidemic our country has ever seen,” said Dr. Bryan Alsip, executive vice president and chief medical officer of University Health. “And to give you a comparison, in 2016 more people died from opioid overdose deaths than died from motor vehicle accidents in 1972 or HIV/AIDS in 1995, which were both the peaks of those two epidemics. So I think that gives you a sense of how large this is.”
Dr. Alsip took part in a town hall meeting on the opioid crisis organized by the San Antonio Express-News and the University of Texas at San Antonio. Francine Romero, associate dean of public policy at UTSA, moderated the event.
Other panelists were Colleen Bridger, director of the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District, Timothy Grigsby, assistant professor of community health at UTSA and Josh Green, a recovery coach at Rise Recovery.
Dr. Alsip and Dr. Bridger co-chair the Joint Opioid Task Force, a group of experts that are looking for ways to prevent and treat addiction in our community.
The task force was created at the behest of Judge Nelson Wolff and Mayor Ron Nirenberg. Dr. Alsip said the epidemic crosses all demographic lines, and is blind to race, ethnicity, socio-economic status and gender.
While panelists praised President Trump’s declaration of a public health emergency earlier in the day, the added spotlight to the opioid crisis wasn’t as nearly as important as new, badly needed funding for treatment.