The opioid epidemic continues to ravage communities across the CSG South region. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), from 2019 to 2020, opioid-involved death rates increased by 38 percent. While there have been efforts around the prescription and legal side of opioids, fentanyl, and its derivatives are causing even further harm to communities. Due to its potency and the ease with which it is synthesized, fentanyl is becoming more prevalent. It is increasingly mixed with other substances, often to deadly effect. From 2019 to 2020, the CDC found that synthetic opioid-involved death rates increased by 56 percent.  

Southern state legislators and staff convened in Kansas City, Missouri for the “Opioid Crisis” Masterclass. 22 Legislators, executive appointees, and staff from ten  CSG South member states – Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri,  North Carolina, Oklahoma,  South Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia – participated in the class. Missouri Lieutenant Governor Mike Kehoe and 2023-2023 SLC Chair Craig Blair, Senate President and Lieutenant Governor of West Virginia, provided pre-recorded opening remarks. 

Experts came from: 

  • Aware Recovery Care 
  • KC Care Health Center 
  • Kent Strategic Advisors 
  • Missouri Association of Treatment Court Professionals 
  • Pew Charitable Trusts 
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration 
  • University Health 
  • University of Missouri-Kansas City 
  • Washington University in St. Louis 

Participants learned how opioids work and their use in the medical field, the science behind the chronic disease of addiction, and the roots of the current epidemic dating back more than 100 years. They also learned about the personal experiences of individuals with substance use disorders as well as the experiences of those around them. Participants received briefings on current treatment approaches and best practices available to individuals seeking assistance. Participants learned about harm reduction approaches to minimize adverse impacts to the user as well as public health issues like mitigating the spread of HIV and Hepatitis C. Finally, participants explored opportunities for collaboration between state and federal governments, as well as criminal justice interventions available to support individuals through their substance use disorder. 


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