KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

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Stories Of Addiction Show Communities Searching For ‘Way Out’ Of Opioid Epidemic

The New York Times reports from multiple states on patients and families, each dealing with a wrenching crisis. In related news, hospital "cuddlers" help soothe dependent newborns, Indiana's new governor pledges to roll back Mike Pence's needle exchange restrictions and police in Wyoming are trained to use Narcan.

The New York Times: Snapshots Of An Epidemic: A Look At The Opioid Crisis Across The Country
Public health officials have called the current opioid epidemic the worst drug crisis in American history, killing more than 33,000 people in 2015. Overdose deaths were nearly equal to the number of deaths from car crashes. In 2015, for the first time, deaths from heroin alone surpassed gun homicides. And there’s no sign it’s letting up, a team of New York Times reporters found as they examined the epidemic on the ground in states across the country. From New England to “safe injection” areas in the Pacific Northwest, communities are searching for a way out of a problem that can feel inescapable. (1/6)

Stat: Call In The Cuddlers: Volunteers Soothe Opioid-Dependent Babies
And they need calm. These are newborns born dependent on opioids, the youngest victims of an epidemic that’s touched every corner of the country. Even when mothers seek treatment for their addictions early in pregnancy, they are typically urged to stay on methadone to minimize the risk of miscarriage. That means babies are often born experiencing symptoms of withdrawal — such as twitching and tremors, trouble feeding, and difficulty sleeping...Many babies born dependent on opioids get methadone to ease their symptoms, but this program puts an emphasis on non-pharmacologic care for babies suffering from neonatal abstinence syndrome, or NAS. Often, that starts with skin-to-skin contact. (Thielking, 1/6)

The Associated Press: Pence's Indiana Successor Backs Fewer Needle Exchange Limits
Indiana's incoming governor pledged Thursday to roll back some restrictions on needle exchanges that his predecessor, Vice President-elect Mike Pence, signed into law as part of the state's response to its largest HIV epidemic. Republican Eric Holcomb, who takes office next week, said he believes local officials — not the state — should be able to authorize needle exchanges, a move he characterized as a "prudent step." Health experts, who criticized Pence's response to the crisis, say exchanges can dramatically curtail deadly outbreaks by allowing intravenous drug users to swap dirty needles for clean ones. (Slodysko, 1/5)

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