Attendees at the First Friday Club of Cleveland program on Oct. 4 heard a discussion of the opioid abuse epidemic from a variety of perspectives and learned that substance abuse remains a major issue locally and beyond.
Moderator Bob Klubert from Medical Mutual spoke about the issue from the perspective of a health insurer, explaining the huge scope of the problem. He said millions of people are addicted to opioids and thousands of people visit emergency rooms daily because of misuse or overdose of the drugs. It is a $53 billion burden on the economy, he said, and even more unsettling is the fact that Ohio ranks second in deaths from opioid overdoses.
Klubert said it also is disconcerting to see people making money from the opioid epidemic, leaving some people with excessive charges and lacking quality care.
?We?re doing things to try to make an impact,? Klubert said, explaining that monitoring takes place so people don?t ?shop? for doctors, prescription refills are closely watched and treatment methods are scrutinized. He said Medical Mutual is working with the attorney general?s task force to try and address the situation from a health insurance perspective.
Panelists were Maureen Dee, executive director of treatment, prevention and recovery services, Catholic Charities, Diocese of Cleveland; Marvin, a graduate of one of Catholic Charities? programs; Diane Zbasnik, who heads the diocesan Social Action Office; and Todd DeKatch, a supervisory special agent with the FBI and co-commander of a task force with the Cleveland Police Department that is tackling the epidemic locally.
DeKatch shared sobering statistics that illustrated how quickly the opioid epidemic grew. In 2009, when the task force began tracking statistics, there were 29 overdose deaths in the area. Within four years