On Oct. 26, President Trump declared the opioid epidemic a public health emergency, stating, “No part of our society, young or old, rich or poor, urban or rural, has been spared this plague of drug addiction and this horrible, horrible situation that’s taken place with opioids.”

The announcement came after a report filed by a federal task force called for better treatment clinics, more money for prevention, and widening distribution of naloxone, an emergency drug used to reverse an overdose.  

This designation of a “public health crisis” allows for some grant money to be used to combat opioid abuse and the hiring of specialists to tackle the crisis. The plan is expected to include a requirement for federally employed prescribers to be trained in safe practices for opioid prescriptions, a new federal initiative to develop non-addictive painkillers, and stronger efforts to block shipments of fentanyl, a cheap and extremely potent synthetic opioid, into the United States.

Specialists in law enforcement and physicians’ groups agreed that the president’s announcement was a crucial first step in building awareness about the opioid crisis and confronting its causes and devastating effects. But federal efforts are just the start, and every community needs its own programs, practices and dedication to awareness, prevention and treatment. Local organizations, including the Ridgefield Prevention Council, the Ridgefield Community Coalition Against Substance Abuse, the Ridgefield Police Commission, Project Resilience, and others are all contributing toward this urgent community challenge. Join us.

Note: Naloxone (brand name Narcan) is available at Bissell’s and other local pharmacies. Classes on how to administer Narcan are frequently sponsored by Silver Hill Hospital and the Ridgefield Prevention Council. The Ridgefield police also carry naloxone kits.