Arizona opioid treatment providers respond to public health emergency

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(Source: 3TV/CBS 5) (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
(Source: 3TV/CBS 5) (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)

President Donald Trump declared the opioid crisis a Public Health Emergency on Thursday, which will reduce some regulations, giving states more flexibility in how they use federal dollars to respond to the epidemic. It does not create additional funding from the federal government, a point that’s been criticized by some Democrats.

Lee Pioske, executive director for the Crossroads treatment centers in Maricopa County, says he appreciates the emergency declaration, but feels it’s just a piece of the massive puzzle. The next step, he says, has to be education.

[RELATED: Former drug addict encouraged by Trump putting opioid crisis in national spotlight]

“That’s where we should put some prevention efforts in, get into the schools. Start working with them at sixth grade and older, using their language and their culture,” said Pioske.

The president did hit on this point in his speech Thursday, talking about a public health campaign to talk about the danger of these drugs. Attacking the epidemic will take addressing the root of the problem. One of those, Pioske says, is the fact that the United States prescribes 80 percent of the world's opioids, but only hold 5 percent of the global population.

[RELATED: State gets millions, will train more first responders to fight opioid overdoses]

“The doctors have to be educated. The medical schools have to start teaching. At Crossroads we have medical students that come in now to help us. And the big part of that for us is, that we can teach them and they can see what is going on. Because they don’t get this in medical school,” he said.

One of Crossroad’s peer mentors is Marcus Weisbly who got hooked on opioids at the age of 13. He shares his struggles with addicts hoping to make the same recovery he did.

“I have to have hope and faith that seeing it work for me will work for others and when the public sees that it works, that will be the normal. That will be what we turn to instead of incarceration,” said Marcus.

[RELATED: Arizona agency gets $3.2M from US to combat opioid abuse]

Weisbly has been arrested countless times including after he spiraled out of control following his fiancee’s overdose death. He had been sober but she began using again. The night before a planned drive to a treatment center, she overdosed and died.

“She was the love of my life. I knew it the first moment I saw her,” he said, remembering how she taught him to “appreciate how finite human life is and to not take it for granted.”

Marcus takes that feeling and uses it to help others fight. His hope, that politicians will soon turn all of this talk into action.

[SPECIAL SECTION: Opioid Crisis in Arizona]

“The monstrosity of the problem we have now has reached a point that we can no longer turn a blind eye and hope that it fixes itself.”

President Trump’s declaration also expands the use of telemedicine, which could help people in rural areas get the substance abuse treatment they need.

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