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CMU hosts a conference on the opioid epidemic

Benjamin R Thorp

A conference on the opioid crisis was held Friday on the campus of Central Michigan University discussing the need for multi-sector approach to the health crisis.

Opioid overdose is the number one killer for people under the age of 50, according to officials at the conference.

People from across the state and from a variety of sectors: social work, pharmacists, physicians, and addiction counselors were all in attendance.

Dr. George Kikano is the dean of CMU’s College of Medicine. He said it is important to have an multi-sector approach to fighting the epidemic.

“As you know opioids are becoming a national epidemic impacting rural and urban areas across the country. We’ve had more opioid death in 2016 than we had at the peak of the HIV AIDS epidemics in the 80’s and 90’s.”

Patrick Shannon is the Chief Judge of the Saginaw Chippewa Tribal Court. He said the state is far behind other states in how it coordinates resources for addicts.

“We have to look at it differently. Not through a law enforcement lens but through a disease and public health approach because jail, prisons, are not the answer.”

Larry Ashley is a professor of Public Health and Physician Assistants programs at CMU. He said the industry has vastly over prescribed pills.

“We all know people that if they go to a physician for whatever ailment and they don’t get a prescription they think the doctor is a quack. Because we’ve come to learn and expect that’s the magic bullet, there isn’t any magic bullet.”

Ashley said physicians and prescribers need to be trained to prescribe less and only use opioids as a last resort.

Roughly 200 people were in attendance at the conference.

CMU will host another conference next year, on a different topic.