Opioid Use Disorder is a national epidemic. While opioid medications (also called narcotics) have a useful role in managing pain from injury, surgery or illness, the overuse, misuse and illicit use of medications and illegal opioids (such as heroin) has fueled a crisis for women and their families nationwide.

The policy challenges surrounding opioids is how to ensure their appropriate use while also providing adequate treatment for people with both acute and chronic pain — both of which may benefit from opioid medications in the right situations. It is also critical to recognize that the treatment and management of pain does not begin and end with opioid medications, but includes other therapeutic options and the expectations of clinicians and patients. It is also important to realize that people can become physically dependent even when taking the medicines as directed by their clinicians.

What is clear from the national dialogue about this crisis is that there is not one solution — or even a set of solutions. It will require collaboration and cooperation across many different groups, including clinicians, patients, insurers, regulators, legislators, law enforcement, first responders, and the media.

HealthyWomen will be an active participant in this dialogue to advance the interests of women, their families and their communities. We will engage partners and stakeholders in an ongoing effort to highlight policy best practices for overcoming barriers to OUD treatment, and policies and issues related to ensuring access to appropriate and adequate treatments for pain.

One example of our commitment to combat the opioid use epidemic in communities nationwide is our partnership with Legal Action Center. Our presentation, Strengthening Families and Communities: Improving Access to Medication-Assisted Treatment for Substance Use Disorders, at the Women in Government's 2018 Legislative Conference, reviewed opportunities for state legislators to consider.

A highlight at the conference was a video about the impact of OUD on two women, and how treatment enabled them to reconnect with their families and communities. View it here.

We've compiled a tool kit of resources for legislators and others interested partners about approaches for combatting the wide-ranging OUD crises in their communities. Learn more here: Tool Kit for Legislators: Resources for Strengthening Families and Communities by Improving Access to Treatment for Substance Use Disorder.