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More than three months after President Trump declared the nation's opioid crisis a public health emergency, activists and health care providers say they're still waiting for some other action.

The Trump administration quietly renewed the declaration recently. But it has given no signs it's developing a comprehensive strategy to address an epidemic that claims more than 115 lives every day. The president now says that to combat opioids, he's focused on enforcement, not treatment.

In leggings and a long black hoodie, Ray walked idly up and down Sullivant Avenue in Columbus, Ohio. A block away, an elementary school had let out for the day and students walked home. For Ray, work had just started.

As the opioid crisis continued to plague communities across the country, this year. several states have joined a handful of others in declaring opioid emergencies. President Trump recently labeled the crisis a national public "health emergency." That drew attention to the issue, but did not come with any new funding.

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A handful of students sit in a classroom, inside an old school building on the South Side of Columbus. Columbus resident David Givens is one of them.

In April this year, Katie Herzog checked into a Boston teaching hospital for what turned out to be a nine-hour-long back surgery.

The 68-year-old consulting firm president left the hospital with a prescription for Dilaudid, an opioid used to treat severe pain, and instructions to take two pills every four hours as needed. Herzog took close to the full dose for about two weeks.

When President Trump declared the opioid epidemic a public health emergency, it came with a regulatory change intended to make it easier for people to get care. The declaration allows for doctors to prescribe addiction medicine virtually, without ever seeing the patient in person.

In Indiana, this kind of virtual visit has been legal since early 2017. So I called about a dozen addiction specialists in Indiana to find out how it was going. But no one had heard of doctors using telemedicine for opioid addiction treatment until I ran across Dr. Jay Joshi.

Addiction specialists caution against reading too much into a new study released this week that compares two popular medications for opioid addiction. This much-anticipated research is the largest study so far to directly compare the widely used treatment Suboxone with relative newcomer Vivitrol.

Researchers who compared the two drugs found them equally effective once treatment started. But there are fundamental differences in the way treatment begins, which makes these findings difficult to interpret.

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The state is redesigning the way mental health and addiction services are covered under health care plans. Those services are critical in fighting the deadly opioid crisis. That means a lot of testing is needed before implementing the new system.

Dr. Teresa Long (center) talks about National Drug Take Back Day with (l-r) Columbus Fire Department Assistant Chief Jim Davis, Franklin County Chief Deputy Rick Minerd and U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH).
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As the opioid crisis rages on, public health officials have been urging people to get rid of prescription painkillers that are no longer needed. Communities around the state are holding events this Saturday, which is National Prescription Drug Take Back Day.

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The state's first treatment center for drug-exposed babies is set to open next month in Kettering. Brigid’s Path aims to provide inpatient medical care for newborns with neonatal abstinence syndrome, also known as NAS.

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Soon, former inmates leaving the Franklin County jail will have the option to be injected with Vivitrol, an anti-addiction drug meant to prevent opioid relapses.

Telling the Stories of the Opioid Crisis

Aug 22, 2017
Aaron Goodman

With much national attention being focused on reforming drug policies and laws there hasn't been much room for the voices of those living with drug addiction. 

The other side of the opioid crisis is explored in a conversation about the real lives and realities of drug users, how addiction finds people and how addicts are depicted in popular culture. 

More Americans are drinking alcohol, and a growing number of them are drinking to a point that's dangerous or harmful, according to a new study published in JAMA Psychiatry this week.

The study, sponsored by a federal agency for alcohol research, examined how drinking patterns changed between 2002 and 2013, based on in-person surveys of tens of thousands of U.S. adults.

It's always appealing to think that there could be an easy technical fix for a complicated and serious problem.

For example, wouldn't it be great to have a vaccine to prevent addiction?

"One of the things they're actually working on is a vaccine for addiction, which is an incredibly exciting prospect," said Dr. Tom Price, secretary of Health and Human Services.

Nurse Catherine “Bizz” Grimes moves like her name sounds: at a frenetic pace. She darts across the hall from the prenatal diagnosis clinic at Indiana University Health University Hospital in Indianapolis, sits down at her cubicle, puts on her headset over curly white blonde hair and starts dialing.

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