UNMC's opioid conference called 'unprecedented'

by Kalani Simpson, UNMC public relations | October 18, 2016

Image with caption: From left, UNMC Chancellor Jeffrey P. Gold, M.D., Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts, and U.S. Attorney Deb Gilg

From left, UNMC Chancellor Jeffrey P. Gold, M.D., Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts, and U.S. Attorney Deb Gilg

U.S. Attorney Deb Gilg has been fighting drug addiction and its effects on Nebraska communities for decades. She called last week's Nebraska opioid summit on UNMC's Omaha campus "the missing piece."

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Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson speaks at the conference.
The bringing together of law enforcement and the medical community, with a common purpose, to fight the problem of opioid addiction stemming from prescription medication, "is unprecedented," Gilg said.

The summit, "Charting the Road to Recovery; Nebraska's Response to Opioid Abuse," was hosted by UNMC, the Nebraska Attorney General, the U.S. Attorney and the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services. More than 300 people from Nebraska's public health, medical, and law enforcement communities attended.

See a photo album from the conference.

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts advocated a three-pronged approach of prevention, law enforcement and treatment. He lauded organizers and attendees for addressing opioid addiction before it reached the levels seen in other states.

"We have a problem here in our state," the governor said. "It's not as bad as in other states, but we have a problem.

"One death is too many."

Chancellor Jeffrey P. Gold, M.D., in opening the summit, said bringing together various factions in order to find solutions has become a UNMC specialty, yet another way the medical center transforms lives to create a healthy future.

Summitgoers heard from experts from across the country who have seen -- and fought -- opioid addiction in their states. Former Florida State Surgeon General John Armstrong, M.D., was part of a multi-agency effort to turn back a dramatic spike in oxycodone-related deaths. Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel is leading a furious campaign to beat back the epidemic ravaging his state.

"I've met over 500 parents who have buried their kids," Schimel said.

Said Gilg of the opioid epidemic, "This thing is surrounding us."

Throughout the day, summit attendees furthered the conversation on social media via the hashtag #NEOpioidSummit.

Dr. Gold stressed that the summit would not be an end unto itself, but merely the beginning.

Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson was similarly determined, and optimistic. The summit came about thanks to a phone call from Peterson to Dr. Gold.

The attorney general told a story of close friends whose son became an opioid addict.

The experience was devastating, but in the end they and their son came out the other side.

The folks in this room can help Nebraska do the same, the attorney general said.

"We're all in unique positions," Peterson said. "We've all been placed for such a time as this."

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Lori Fuller
October 18, 2016 at 7:54 AM

I was able to watch and listen from my desk. I think this has been long overdue. I also believe that the problem is larger in Nebraska/Iowa than was indicated. This is a huge social issue across our nation. So grateful that our university took the lead in hosting this summit. The information that was shared was absolutely needed! Thank you.