TULSA - Days before an explosive 60 Minutes story on a bill that seemingly gutted the DEA’s ability to curb the nation’s opioid epidemic, Senator James Lankford was in Tulsa for a town hall meeting at which he addressed the problem of opioids at length.
He showed the audience of a map that showed the explosion of opioid-related deaths in the country between the years 2011 to 2015.
Most of the central time zone was fairly white, but one state jumped out because it was nearly filled with red - Oklahoma.
“It’s not about wealth and poverty, it’s not about one county or another,” Lankford told the audience. “You can look at that map of Oklahoma and see it’s across the state - rural, urban, suburban, it’s everywhere.”
He pointed out that Congress had passed a bill about 18 months ago to address the issue, but clearly, there’s a lot of work to be done.
And lawmakers alone, he said, can’t solve the problem.
“I’m going to ask us to have family conversations to say ‘why? Why is this a bigger problem in opioids in our state, and not in the states around us?’”
He did sound a couple of hopeful notes.
He and some of his fellow senators lobbied to end the practice of requiring hospitals to prove all their patients were “pain free” on discharge in order to get full compensation from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.
Also, he said, thirty pharmaceutical companies are now working together and sharing research to develop pain relievers that are not addictive.