Former Ohio Governor John Kasich and West Virginia University President Dr. Gordon Gee today announced the formation of Citizens for Effective Opioid Treatment at 130aday.com. The 501(c)(4) organization has a twofold mission to advance evidence-based solutions for America’s opioid crisis and to educate policymakers and the public about the negative impact the crisis is having on the nation’s health care infrastructure.
“Hospitals and health systems across the country are in the trenches trying to manage this crisis as best they can," Gee said, "but are struggling given the complexity of the cases, the sheer number of patients involved, and the often meager reimbursement for providing the care. We must ensure people across the country hear the voices of these frontline caregivers loudly and clearly and help them understand how this ongoing crisis is endangering the viability of America’s hospitals.”
Kasich and Gee, who is also the chair of the West Virginia University Health System Board of Directors, recently met with a number of West Virginia health care providers – nurses, doctors, addiction treatment experts, social workers, and hospital administrators – to hear firsthand about the impact of the crisis on their operations, as well as to discuss new and innovative ways to care for patients struggling with opioid addiction.
“We’re fortunate so many great minds and passionate people are focused on this crisis, the epicenter of which is here in West Virginia, Ohio, and all of Appalachia, but we also have to back them up with the resources they need to start changing its outcome,” Gee said. “Hospitals across this country are taking a direct hit as they care for thousands of patients addicted to prescription opioids – yet they often receive little to no reimbursement. That’s unsustainable and a prescription for disaster given how expensive caring for these patients can be.”
Thirty-one West Virginia hospitals recently filed a lawsuit against opioid manufacturers and their distributors. Those hospitals join more than 300 other hospitals across the United States that have filed similar suits, which have been consolidated with other plaintiffs that include state and local governments.
“As a former governor and chairman of the House Budget Committee, I can tell you one of the key lessons we learned from the master tobacco settlement agreement in 1998 is that we cannot allow settlement funds to be spent on anything other than addressing the opioid crisis,” said Kasich. “We must use opioid settlement dollars to make our hospitals whole and to develop new and evidence-based treatment programs.”
Kasich points to the $206 billion tobacco master settlement agreement, which the National Cancer Institute described as “an opportunity lost to curb cigarette use,” citing research that concluded not enough of the settlement dollars were being spent on anti-smoking measures.
“We should ensure that any settlement with the opioid manufacturers and their distributors is used to develop medical programs and treatment protocols to combat the crisis while working to help stabilize the hospitals most impacted by it,” Kasich continued. “We have to put opioid settlement dollars to work and put them in the hands of our caregivers.”