Last week, the White House declared the opioid crisis—which is responsible for a growing number of overdoses and fatalities each day—a public health emergency. Soon after, the American Optometric Association (AOA) informed the White House that the more than 44,000 doctors of optometry serving thousands of communities across the country are ready, willing, and able to help address the public health emergency declared by the president.
In an official statement, the AOA said it will “cooperate with and assist federal agencies in the mobilization to fight the epidemic of opioid abuse plaguing our nation, and support the safe expansion of access to essential health care services that is needed.”
“This is an important moment for every doctor in America, and our profession is up to the challenge of doing more to make our patients, our communities and our country safer and healthier,” the AOA stated. “Doctors of optometry are physicians on the front lines of patient care, delivering the highest quality eye health and vision care and helping to safeguard overall patient health through the early diagnosis of systemic diseases and life-threatening conditions.”
The AOA will immediately begin working to help federal officials shape and implement the actions the president outlines, and we will keep member doctors informed. In addition, Christopher J. Quinn, O.D., AOA president, directed the AOA Health Policy Institute to immediately develop clinical recommendations for all eye doctors to be able to recognize, identify, intervene and refer individuals that are potentially at risk for opioid abuse or excessive use.
According to the latest numbers from the government, the number of heroin users in the United States jumped from 404,000 in 2002 to 948,000 in 2016, a 135% increase. The number of people who had fatal overdoses related to heroin has skyrocketed from 2,089 in 2002 to an estimated 13,219 in 2016—a 533% jump.