Cities, counties form task force against drug abuse

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The National League of Cities (NLC) and the National Association of Counties (NACo) announced the creation of a joint national task force to address our nation's opioid and heroin abuse crisis.

The City-County Task Force Addressing Heroin and Opioid Abuse, comprised of city and county leaders from across the country, aims to enhance awareness, facilitate peer exchanges and identify sound policy and partnership solutions.

This task force builds on the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy's four-pillared plan to reduce prescription drug abuse: education, monitoring, proper medication disposal and enforcement. 

NLC and NACo elected leaders will explore proven practices for community prevention and overdose response, effective treatment options, and public safety enforcement and supply reduction. NACo and NLC will share opportunities, challenges and issues local jurisdictions face when addressing opioid and heroin abuse in our communities.

"The rapidly increasing number of deaths from heroin overdoses and other opioids has reached epidemic proportions," said National League of Cities President Melodee Colbert-Kean, council member, Joplin, Mo. "The National League of Cities is pleased to partner with county leaders at NACo to provide coordinated, intergovernmental solutions to this tragic problem."

Counties and cities have recognized that the opioid and heroin abuse crisis has reached epidemic proportions. Drug overdose is now the leading cause of accidental death in the United States, with more than 47,000 lethal drug overdoses in 2014. This epidemic is driven largely by overdose deaths related to prescription pain relievers (18,893) and deaths related to heroin (10,574). There were 259 million opioid prescriptions written in 2012, which is more than enough to give a pill bottle to every American adult.

"We see the devastating effects of prescription drug abuse and heroin use because counties are at the intersection of the local health, justice and public safety systems," said NACo President Sallie Clark. "Addressing this issue is a top priority for local leaders. This new initiative will build on our efforts to mitigate this crisis and strengthen the safety and security of our neighborhoods."

The task force will take the following actions:

Cities and counties across the country experience firsthand the impact of this epidemic. Local leaders are committed to join together to emphasize local solutions to address substance abuse and its impacts on residents and communities.