Fletcher Speech At Opioid Summit Cited In Lane Report
Fletcher Group Founder Dr. Ernie Fletcher’s presentation at the inaugural Kentucky Opioid Summit June 24 in Lexington has been covered in detail by The Lane Report, a Kentucky business-to-business publication dedicated to keeping readers abreast of important trends, best practices, and success stories. The following is an excerpt from the Lane Report written by Jacquiline Pitts.
“In the luncheon keynote address, former Kentucky Governor Ernie Fletcher detailed his work with Recovery Kentucky to help those seeking treatment and looking to get back on track. Recovery Kentucky, started by the late Don Ball in 2004, was created to help Kentuckians recover from substance abuse. There are 14 Recovery Kentucky centers across the Commonwealth which provide housing and recovery services for up to 2,000 Kentuckians simultaneously across the state. Gov. Fletcher illustrated the fact that the people with substance use disorder are not who we often think they are. He invited Michael St. John, a Kentuckian who has gone through treatment with Recovery Kentucky, to tell his story. St. John described his struggle with addiction and his experience with the Hope Center in Lexington where he received free treatment and was hugged and told his life was worth living when he walked in the door. He stressed that those with substance use disorders are not bad people but instead are people trying to get well. Because of his treatment, St. John told the crowd he is now employed, a taxpayer, and has a purpose because of people and groups like those in the room committed to making a difference on this issue.”
Above, Dr. Fletcher (left) with Kentucky Congressman Hal Rogers.
The Lane Report story also highlighted the contributions of other experts in attendance.
Kentucky Chamber President and CEO Dave Adkisson opened the conference by asserting that Kentucky businesses want and need to be a part of “turning the tide” against the opioid epidemic. The key, he said, is getting people back to work which in turn benefits not just individuals but also their families and communities.
Several speakers shared their own personal stories of addiction.
UK basketball star Rex Chapman told of taking 40 Vicodin and 10 Oxycodone per day after an emergency surgery for an injury that threatened his professional basketball career. Chapman has been in recovery for five years now and is using his story to help others.
Patrick Kullman explained how a job injury eventually led him to heroine when the cost of pain-killer pills reached $70 a day and he heard that he could get a similar high on heroin for $5.
Pat Fogarty, the Director of Community Relations at Alkermes, a major pharmaceutical manufacturer, told of his own incarceration, overdose, and loss of close relationships. He strongly endorses what worked for him: treatment, employment during recovery, and transitional living.
Although he served as Director of National Drug Control Policy under the Obama Administration and currently serves as Executive Director of the Grayken Center for Addiction at the Boston Medical Center, Michael Botticelli told how he, too, suffered from substance use disorder. Unfortunately, people struggling with addiction often don’t seek help, said Botticelli, because they’re afraid of what their employer might think and the negative effect it may have on their job. He noted that the cost of addiction treatment for employers continues to rise, in part because many employers choose expensive out of state treatments without knowing better.
Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy Executive Director Van Ingram called the opioid crisis a kind of “perfect storm” in that the marketing of opioids reached its high mark at precisely the same time that America changed its approach to treating pain.
Dr. Katie Marks, Project Director of the Kentucky Opioid Response Effort under the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, stressed the need for long-term recovery by adhering to the principles of availability, accessibility, acceptability, and quality.
Eric Bailly, Business Solutions Director for Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, made a strong case for business involvement by noting that 70% of those with substance use disorder are employed. The costs to employers are numerous and significant, said Bailey, and include lost time, turnover, and retraining as well as medical expenses.
LG&E Corporate Health and Wellness Leader Amanda Elder seconded Bailly’s assessment. Because the opioid crisis took a long time to develop it will naturally take a long time to resolve, she said. The key is for employers to discuss, learn and take action now.
Jamie Johnson, Director of Operations at Dorman Products, shared a personal story that motivated him to implement an innovative corporate plan called SPAR—“Support, Prevention, Attention, and Reach.”
Jenny Burke, Senior Director of Advocacy at the National Safety Council, noted that only two in every five businesses are taking action of any kind to combat the opioid crisis. She noted that, although roughly one out of ten Americans could benefit from recovery, only a small number actually receive treatment. To increase awareness, Burke’s organization has created a substance use cost calculator so that employers can quickly gain a real understanding of what untreated substance use disorders cost them.
U.S. Attorney Russell Coleman admitted that law enforcement cannot “arrest its way out” of the opioid crisis. The problem will only be solved, he said, by combining treatment and prevention with enforcement. He added that businesses and providers are uniquely positioned to scale up prevention efforts.
Dr. Sharon Walsh, Director of the Center on Drug and Alcohol Research at the University of Kentucky, emphasized the need for evidence-based treatment and medication-assisted treatment (MAT). Only one in ten individuals with an opioid use disorder are offered evidence-based care, said Walsh. She cited numerous inhibiting factors including a lack of providers, the cost of such drugs, insurance restrictions, stigma and discrimination, and a lack of understanding as to how MAT works.
In addition to individual speakers, a panel of employers, educators and drug enforcement officers discussed their efforts to reduce and prevent opioid misuse. Christopher Evans said the opioid epidemic is clearly the largest drug threat he’s seen during his 26 years as a DEA agent. Two important initiatives were discussed in detail—Discovery Education’s “Operation Prevention” and the U.S. Chamber Foundation’s effort called “Sharing Solutions.”
The Kentucky Chamber of Commerce—the host of the annual opioid summit—is doing its part, too. It announced the launch of its own Opioid Response Program for Business that will seek to destigmatize addiction and support employers in their efforts to prevent and treat opioid addiction.
To read the entire highly detailed and well-written report, click Lane Report.
“Recovery Kentucky gave me the life I have always prayed for and the tools to keep it! It taught me to look at every day as a blessing and see the positive in life and in people instead of the negative!”
—Marie St. John (pictured left with husband Michael, Governor Ernie Fletcher, and eight-month-old son Corbin)
“Recovery Kentucky taught me how to live life and become the man I am today. No matter what comes at me in life I have been taught the tools and resources to overcome any obstacle in my way.”
—Michael St. John
Fletcher Group Makes Strong Presentation At Rx Summit
The nation’s leading policy makers and innovators gather each year at the Rx Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit in Atlanta to discuss challenges and solutions relating to the national opioid crisis. It is the largest and most influential gathering of its kind with past speakers including Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton as well as Congressmen Patrick Kennedy and Newt Gingrich.
The Fletcher Group’s unique “Recovery Ecosystems” model for recovery housing was presented April 25 by Fletcher Group CEO Dave Johnson. His presentation at the RX Summit can be viewed in its entirety below.
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