Addiction in America @ The Washington Post | May 4, 2016, 9 – 11 a.m.

Deaths due to prescription opioids and heroin use are at a record high. As the epidemic continues to worsen, efforts to curb its rise have emerged from government agencies, community initiatives and the private sector.

In his final State of the Union address, President Obama urged lawmakers to battle drug abuse as a bipartisan priority. The Food and Drug Administration announced new “black box” cautions about the risk of addiction, overdose and death for short-acting opioid pain medications. In Congress, House Republican leaders plan to hold a vote next month on the issue. It has also been a focus of the presidential race as candidates offer specific proposals to tackle an epidemic that doesn’t discriminate by socio-economic status.

On May 4, as part of a Washington Post series on America’s opioid crisis, health care experts and advocates discussed the demographics and causes of the opioid epidemic and examined its consequences as well as solutions for prevention and treatment. Watch highlights below.



9:00 a.m. | Opening and Welcome Remarks

-Lois Romano, Editor, Washington Post Live
-David Cordani, President and CEO, Cigna

Breaking the Cycle of Addiction

-Deborah Simpson Taylor, Senior vice president and regional director, Phoenix House Mid-Atlantic
-Gary Mendell, Founder and chief executive, Shatterproof
-Anne Schuchat, M.D., Principal deputy director, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
-Anne McDonald Pritchett, Vice president of policy and research, PhRMA

Moderated by Kimberly Kindy, National investigative reporter, The Washington Post

Sponsor Interview: Next Steps for Addiction Treatment and Prevention

-David Cordani, President and CEO, Cigna

Interviewed by Susan Blumenthal, M.D., Former U.S. assistant surgeon general; Clinical professor, Tufts and Georgetown University Schools of Medicine; Senior fellow, New America; Senior medical advisor, amfAR

A Changing Changing Model: From Criminalization to Compassion

-Michael Botticelli, Director of National Drug Control Policy, The White House

Interviewed by Lois Romano, Editor, Washington Post Live

On the Front Lines of Addiction

-Jason Snyder, Policy and communications director, Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs
-Mayor Svante L. Myrick, Ithaca, N.Y.
-John Rosenthal, Co-founder, Police Assisted Addiction and Recovery Initiative
-Timothy Wynn, Iraq War veteran; veteran mentor, Philadelphia Veterans Court

Moderated by Anne Hull, National reporter, The Washington Post

A National Priority

-U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy

Interviewed by Marc Fisher, Senior editor, The Washington Post

11:00 a.m. | Closing Remarks


U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy

Vice Admiral Vivek H. Murthy was confirmed on December 15, 2014, as the 19th United States Surgeon General. As “America’s Doctor,” Dr. Murthy is responsible for communicating the best available scientific information to the public regarding ways to improve personal and public health. He also oversees the operations of the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, comprised of approximately 6,700 uniformed health officers who serve in nearly 800 locations around the world. He received his Bachelor’s degree from Harvard and his M.D. and M.B.A. degrees from Yale. He completed his residency training at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School where he later joined the faculty as an internal medicine physician and instructor.

Michael Botticelli
Director of National Drug Control Policy
The White House

Michael Botticelli was sworn in as director of National Drug Control Policy at the White House on Feb. 11, 2015, after being unanimously confirmed by the United States Senate. He joined the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy as deputy director in November 2012 and later served as acting director. Botticelli leads the Obama Administration’s drug policy efforts. In response to the national opioid epidemic, he has coordinated actions across the Federal government aimed to reduce prescription drug abuse, heroin use and related overdoses. Botticelli has been in long-term recovery from a substance use disorder for more than 26 years. He previously served as director of the Bureau of Substance Abuse Services at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

Mayor Svante L. Myrick
Ithaca, N.Y.

Svante L. Myrick was sworn into office in January 2012 and became, at 24, the City of Ithaca’s youngest mayor and first mayor of color. Svante was first elected to the city’s Common Council at the age of 20 while still a junior at Cornell University.

Jason Snyder
Policy and Communications Director
Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs

Jason Snyder is policy and communications director for the Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs. He serves as primary communications advisor to the secretary of the department on all public relations and strategic communications matters. He is also the primary policy liaison between the department and the governor’s office, working to develop and implement drug and alcohol program policies that are consistent with the governor’s strategic plan.
Snyder lost both of his siblings to drug overdose deaths and is in long-term recovery from the disease of addiction. He regularly speaks about his family’s experience with addiction.

John Rosenthal
Police Assisted Addiction and Recovery Initiative

John Rosenthal is the president of Meredith Management. He is a real estate developer and manager in Massachusetts, and is also developing the Fenway Center mixed-use project on land and air rights over the MassTurnpike next to Fenway Park. In 1987, Rosenthal started The Friends of Boston’s Homeless. In partnership with the City of Boston, The Friends serves 800 people every night and helps transition more than 400 formerly homeless men and women in Boston beyond shelter with housing and full-time jobs each year. In June 2015, Rosenthal and Gloucester Police Chief Leonard Campanello co-founded the Police Assisted Addiction and Recovery Initiative to support the innovative Gloucester Police Angel program and help other police departments around the state and country address the deadly epidemic and desease of opioid addiction. Within seven months of it’s founding the Gloucester Angel Program placed over 400 people into treatment.

Gary Mendell
Founder and chief executive, Shatterproof

Gary Mendell is the founder and chief executive of Shatterproof. Mendell founded Shatterproof to spare others the tragedy his family suffered with the death of his son Brian, who lost his battle with addiction in 2011. Mendell is the founder and former chief executive of HEI Hotels and Resort and the former president of Starwood Lodging Trust. Mendell is also a member of the Clinton Health Matters Initiative, President Obama’s Better Building Challenge, the Collaborative for Effective Prescription Opioid Policies and Drugs Over Dinner.

Deborah Simpson Taylor
Senior vice president and regional director, Phoenix House Mid-Atlantic

Deborah Simpson Taylor received her training in the field of psychiatric nursing and has worked in the addiction field since 1972. In 1989 she joined Vanguard Services Unlimited as executive director and later became president and chief executive. In 2010, she started at Phoenix House Mid-Atlantic as senior vice president and regional director when Vanguard finalized their affiliation with Phoenix House, the largest national not-for-profit substance abuse treatment organization.

Anne Schuchat, M.D.
Principal Deputy Director, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Rear Adm. Anne Schuchat has been principal deputy director for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention since September 2015. Schuchat began her public health career in 1988 when she came to the CDC as an epidemic intelligence service officer. She was director of CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases from 2006 to 2015. Other CDC leadership posts she’s held include acting director of the National Center for Infectious Diseases and the Center for Global Health, chief of the respiratory diseases branch and chief health officer for CDC’s 2009 H1N1 pandemic influenza response. Schuchat also served as CDC’s interim deputy director for science and program in early 2009. She was promoted to rear admiral in the United States Public Health Service in 2006 and earned a second star in 2010.

Anne McDonald Pritchett
Vice president of policy and research, PhRMA

Anne McDonald Pritchett is the vice president of policy and research at the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America. Her primary focus is overseeing the development of legislative and policy analysis and research studies on a range of issues impacting biopharmaceutical companies. Previously, she served as deputy vice president of strategic planning for PhRMA. Prior to joining PhRMA, she served in the White House Drug Policy Office for almost 8 years focusing on policy development and analysis. She’s also held positions as the director of government affairs and public relations for a small medical association as well as senior positions with several contract research firms providing communications, policy analysis, and research and evaluation support to a range of federal agencies from the U.S. Department of Justice to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and several Institutes of the National Institutes of Health.

Timothy Wynn
Iraq War veteran; veteran mentor, Philadelphia Veterans Court

Timothy Wynn is a veterans treatment court graduate from Philadelphia. He is a combat Marine who honorably served during the invasion of Iraq. Following a stop-loss he returned home, and within 72 hours was arrested. Wynn was struggling to cope with undiagnosed mental health issues which were exacerbated by substance abuse. Wynn’s intervention came after his seventh arrest when he was given the chance to participate in the Philadelphia Veterans Treatment Court. Today, he is a certified peer specialist and volunteers as a mentor to other veterans in the veterans treatment court program. As a mentor, Wynn says he sees veterans struggling with addiction to opiates every week.

Sponsor interview:

David Cordani
President and CEO, Cigna

David Cordani became president and chief executive officer of Cigna in 2009. Previously, Cordani was with Coopers & Lybrand. He actively works with March of Dimes, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and the Achilles International Freedom Team of Wounded Veterans. Cordani is a charter board member of ChildObesity180, and was named to the General Mills Board of Directors in 2014 and to the U.S.-India Business Council Board of Directors in 2015.

Interviewed by

Susan J. Blumenthal, M.D.
Clinical professor, Tufts and Georgetown University Schools of Medicine; senior fellow, New America; senior medical advisor, amfAR; former U.S. assistant surgeon general

Rear Adm. Susan J. Blumenthal is a currently a senior fellow in health policy at New America, a senior medical advisor at amfAR and a clinical professor of psychiatry at Georgetown and Tufts University Schools of Medicine. Blumenthal was U.S. assistant surgeon general, the first deputy assistant secretary for women’s health and senior global health advisor in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, where her focus was driving health issues like mental illness and women’s health to the forefront of the U.S. health care agenda. Earlier in her career, Blumenthal served as chief of the behavioral medicine and basic prevention research branch as well as head of the suicide research unit at the National Institutes of Health. She has also been a health columnist, host and medical director of a television series on health.