Gene Shelby, MD, past president of the Arkansas Medical Society wrote the following letter to the editor, which appeared in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette on September 29, 2019. It was also signed by Patrice Harris, MD, president of the American Medical Association.
More Work to Be Done
Slow start or not, Arkansas has taken many steps to tackle the state’s opioid epidemic. Physicians have reduced opioid prescriptions by more than 21 percent over the past five years, and more than 430 physicians and other health-care professionals are now certified to prescribe medication that is highly effective in treating patients with a substance-use disorder.
The physicians at Community Clinic and dozens of other treatment locations across the state are working to reduce stigma and encourage their colleagues to join them in their efforts. The Arkansas Medical Society and American Medical Association are urging physicians and community leaders to help people understand that a substance-use disorder can be effectively treated like any other chronic medical disease.
Arkansas is one of the few states where health-insurance companies have removed certain barriers to evidence-based medical care for substance-use disorders–another key step, and we urge all payers to make sure their enrollees have credible information about treatment.
This epidemic did not happen overnight, and it will take years to address. We all have much more work to do, and we are committed to taking all steps necessary.