Baltimore Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen Joins President Obama To Discuss Ending Nation’s Opioid Abuse Epidemic


ATLANTA, GA (March 29, 2016)– Baltimore City Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen joined President Barack Obama Tuesday for a panel discussion before thousands of thought leaders at the National Rx Drug Abuse & Heroin Summit to discuss the innovative efforts being implemented in Baltimore to address the opioid abuse epidemic. The panel, moderated by CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta, also featured two individuals in long-term recovery: Justin Luke Riley and Crystal Oertle.

“As an emergency physician, I have witnessed firsthand the effects of substance addiction on individuals and families. As Baltimore City’s doctor, I work every day with partners across our city to prevent overdose and stem the tide of addiction,” said Dr. Wen. “In Baltimore, under the leadership of Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, we use science to counter stigma. We recognize that treating addiction as a crime is unscientific, inhumane, and ineffective. Addiction is a disease, treatment exists, and we all must play a role in preventing addiction and saving lives in our communities.”

Dr. Wen was joined at Tuesday’s Summit by a number of leading experts from across the country, including:

  • Vice Admiral Dr. Vivek Murthy— United States Surgeon General,
  • Dr. Tom Frieden— Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director,
  • Michael Botticelli—Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy,
  • Dr. Robert Califf—Commissioner of the United States Food and Drug Administration,
  • Tom Vilsack—Secretary of Agriculture, United States Department of Agriculture, and
  • Dr. Francis Collins— Director, National Institutes of Health

Following her appointment in January 2015, Dr. Wen declared opioid overdose a public health emergency and has implemented one of the country's most aggressive platforms to prevent overdose, expand access to treatment, and improve education to patients and providers.

Dr. Wen’s appearance with President Obama Tuesday follows her testimony before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee last week and the Senate HELP Committee late last year to educate federal lawmakers on what is needed at the local level to combat this public health emergency.

“I was honored to join President Obama to share how our innovative efforts are transforming Baltimore into the national model for addiction recovery. We know that the disease of addiction does not discriminate, and while there is much we can do at the local level, we must work in partnership with state and federal partners to address this public health crisis,” added Dr. Wen. “With continued leadership from President Obama and the assistance of our federal partners, we can provide expanded care, save more lives, and ensure equity and justice for millions across our country.”

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