NVFC Meets with White House Officials to Discuss Best Practices in Combatting the Opioid Epidemic

On September 28, representatives of the National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC) participated in a conference hosted by the White House to discuss best practices in combatting the opioid epidemic. The event brought together more than 130 state and local leaders from across the country, including NVFC’s West Virginia Director and Hazmat Committee Chair Tom Miller and NVFC EMS/Rescue Section Director At-Large Brian Foley. Senior Trump administration officials, including Assistant to the President and Senior Counselor Kellyanne Conway and Office of Drug Control Policy Deputy Director Jim Carroll, participated in the conference as well.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, opioids are a class of drugs that include illegal heroin, synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, and pain relievers available legally by prescription. In 2017 the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) declared a public health emergency and announced a 5-point strategy to combat the opioid crisis.

NVFC representatives Brian Foley (left) and Tom Miller

“The NVFC remains committed to protecting the boots-on-the-ground responders as they rise to meet challenges associated with opioid-related emergency response,” said Miller. “We were given a seat at the table to express our concerns and open a constructive dialogue with the administration on key issues such as responder safety, Public Safety Officer Benefits concerns related to opioid responses, compassion fatigue, and effective use of resources.”

A major initiative discussed at the conference was National Prescription Drug Take Back Day, which will take place on October 27 from 10am to 2pm. Police stations, retail pharmacies, and community centers will be hosting prescription drug take back events at over 4,000 locations across the country. At the last Take Back Day, Americans collected a record-breaking 900,000 pounds of prescription drugs. For more information about National Prescription Drug Take Back Day visit https://TakeBackDay.DEA.gov.

“One of the things that we discussed was that there really needs to be a system-wide approach to fighting the opioid crisis,” said Foley, who in August represented the NVFC at a panel discussion hosted by the Department of Justice to promote the release of Fentanyl: The Real Deal, a video designed for roll call training. “The day after I got back from the conference I responded to several opioid overdose calls. My rescue squad has seen higher call volumes, higher costs, and it takes a toll. But we are just one piece of this and it was great to have an opportunity to share ideas and experiences with other responders, folks at the state government level, and officials in the White House.”

According to HHS, opioid overdoses accounted for more than 42,000 deaths in the U.S. in 2016, more than any previous year on record.