Twitter wants to be an educational tool for providers, policymakers tackling the opioid crisis

Twitter birds
Twitter wants to be an educational tool for the opioid epidemic. (Alan O'Rourke/CC BY 2.0)

An unexpected collaborator is jumping into the fight against the opioid epidemic: Twitter. 

The social media site teamed up with the Republican Main Street Partnership, a coalition that includes 70 Republican members of Congress, to host a forum on the issue on Tuesday in Washington,. 

Their goal: To highlight efforts that are in the works to fight the problem of opioids.

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"Twitter is a powerful tool to empower the public with critical healthcare information and connect policymakers with health professionals and communities affected by the opioid epidemic," said Carlos Monje, Twitter's director of public policy and philanthropy. 

The forum also featured remarks from Surgeon General Jerome Adams, who said his office is tackling the epidemic through education, prevention and increased access to nalaxone.

"It really is imperative that we help people understand the impact of the opioid epidemic," said Adams, who regularly turns to Twitter to send health messages to the public.   

RELATED: HHS renews opioid public health emergency status  

Partnerships that bring the issue's wide range of stakeholders are key, Adams said. He said he learned that lesson firsthand—his brother is currently in state prison on opioid-related charges.

"If I, as Surgeon General" couldn't help him, then "no one can do it alone," he said. 

Addressing the stigma around addiction will push more people to seek out treatment, Adams said. He encouraged people to share their stories of how the opioid crisis has impacted them and the people they know. 

"[The epidemic] has leveled the playing field," Adams said. "There is no 'us versus them' —it's all of us."

RELATED: As doctors limit opioids, some pain patients abandoned 

Reps. Barbara Comstock, R-Va., Fred Upton, R-Mich., and Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., also weighed in on how legislators can address the epidemic. Upton said that funding set aside in the 21st Century Cures Act has been put to good use, but it runs out in fiscal year 2019. There needs to be a more long-term solution put in place to ensure solutions are funded long-term, he said.

Fitzpatrick said he came into office from law enforcement. He said he supports several bipartisan opioid policies in the pipeline such as provisions in the works to expand prescription drug monitoring programs that can flag people who are at risk for addiction and giving Customs and Border Patrol more tools to catch opioids like fentanyl that are being shipped to the U.S. 


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