Kellanne Conway, Counselor to President Trump, and Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price M.D. visited the Mirmont Treatment Center on Friday as a part of a listening to learn from those on the front lines of the opioid epidemic.

Price also announced the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has awarded an additional $144.1 million in grants to prevent and treat opioid addiction in support of President Trump’s commitment to combat the opioid crisis. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) will administer the grants.

“Those supporting prevention, treatment, and recovery efforts in our local communities are heroes in our nation’s battle against the opioid crisis,” said Secretary Price. “On our nationwide listening tour, we have heard how critical federal resources can empower their efforts to meet the challenges of substance abuse and addiction, especially with the opioid crisis. These grants will help expand treatment and recovery services to pregnant and postpartum women who are struggling with substance abuse, train our first responders to effectively use overdose reversing drugs, improve access to medication-assisted treatment, and increase long term recovery services. Together, we can heal communities and save lives.”

SAMHSA is issuing the funding through the six grant programs. The funding will be distributed to 58 recipients, including states, cities, healthcare providers and community organizations. The funds will be awarded for three to five years.

As part of the Trump Administration’s ongoing effort to address the opioid crisis, Conway and Price stopped in Media, a suburb of a state that in 2015 saw 3,383 drug-related overdose deaths, an increase of 23.4 percent from the total number of overdose deaths (2,742) reported in 2014, according to the DEA. Also, the 2015 statewide drug overdose death rate was 26 per 100,000 people, well above national drug overdose death rate 14.7 per 100,000 people

Secretary Price and Conway participated in an employee town hall and a listening session with state and local policymakers, advocates, first responders, and law enforcement officers in an effort to learn how to tackle the opioid epidemic.

“President Trump early in his administration has made drug demand reduction and tackling the opioid epidemic a top priority,” said Conway. “The opioid epidemic is everywhere. This is a non-partisan issue in search of bipartisan solutions. Even though in Washington through our administration and the federal government we are taking a more active role in combating drug misuse we do believe those closest to the people in need know best. We want people to stand up and say, ‘I have a problem and I need help.”‘

Conway was most impressed with Mirmont’s nationally acclaimed Valor with Integrity Program for Emergency Responders (V.I.P.E.R.) program which provides addiction and trauma treatment for law enforcement/police, firefighters, EMTs and combat veterans.

Dave Lacy, a retired Montgomery County police officer and co-facilitator of the VIPER program, suffered with an opioid addiction which he battled for ten years. He is now driving the vehicle that transported him from prison to rehab.

“As soon as they realize I sat in the seat they are sitting their guard goes down and they are able to talk to me. This is a disease, not a moral deficiency,” said Lacy.

VIPER provides a safe, supportive environment for recovery while addressing issues that are specific to first responders such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), crime scene trauma, work-related distress and family and marital problems. In addition to group therapy, VIPER offers: eye movement desensitization reprocessing (EMDR) for PTSD; relapse prevention therapy; intensive outpatient therapy (IOP); and a family and friends program.

“I think what’s unique here is the VIPER program,” said Conway. “Officer Lacy is one of its best examples. It takes away the stigma from the first responders, and those in any industry, who may be suffering. For them to be able be able to access a facility where it is treated in a unique and special way is important. It was very unique in our travels and I will take that back to the White House.”

Kellyanne Conway speaks at Mirmont Treatment Center about her discoveries on the opioid epidemic listening tour.

Kellyanne Conway speaks at Mirmont Treatment Center about her discoveries on the opioid epidemic listening tour.

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