Combating the Opioid Crisis: A Call to Action in California’s Central Valley

Sacramento has the chance to prioritize the issuance of non-opioid pain medication for Valley patients, Steve Colangelo writes for Sun View. Here’s how.

As a community activist, chamber of commerce leader, and former law enforcement officer, I’ve witnessed firsthand the devastating impact of the opioid crisis on the rural communities of California’s Central Valley. Families torn apart, lives lost, and communities shattered – the toll is immeasurable. Now, more than ever, we must come together to address this urgent issue and advocate for meaningful change.

The opioid crisis has hit rural areas particularly hard, exacerbating existing challenges such as limited access to healthcare and economic disparities. In the Central Valley, where resources are scarce and poverty rates are high, the effects are magnified. Addiction knows no bounds, affecting individuals from all walks of life, regardless of age, race, or socioeconomic status.


The good news is help could be on the way. For years, healthcare researchers have worked diligently to develop non-opioid pain relievers, which alleviate patients’ pain without the threat of addiction. This year, federal regulators appear on track to approve a first-ever non-opioid treatment for severe pain. However, their impact will be limited unless they are readily accessible to those who need them most.

It’s time for California lawmakers to take decisive action so patients have access to these treatments once they become available. One crucial step is to prioritize education. By equipping healthcare providers with the knowledge and resources to educate their patients about the existence of non-opioids and their benefits compared to more addictive opioids, , we can empower Californians to make informed decisions that prioritize patient safety and well-being. 

But education alone is not enough. If providers and patients are in agreement that non-opioids are the best treatment option for a patient’s severe pain, we must ensure patients are able to access this medicine at an affordable price. To ensure more patients have access, Congress recently introduced the Alternatives to Prevent Addiction in the Nation Act (Alternatives to PAIN) Act, which would guarantee that American seniors who access their prescriptions through the federally-run program Medicare are able to access non-opioids at a price no higher than generic opioid treatments. 

Lawmakers in Sacramento could build upon this effort and ensure more Californians have access by mandating similar coverage through the health insurance program that our state runs, Medi-Cal. 

As a community, we have a collective responsibility to support those struggling with addiction and to prevent future generations from falling victim to this epidemic. This means destigmatizing addiction, expanding access to treatment and recovery services, and investing in programs that address the underlying social and economic factors driving substance abuse.

Together, we can make a difference. By raising our voices and demanding action from our state lawmakers, we can create a future where every individual has access to safe, effective pain management options and where communities are resilient in the face of adversity. Because of medical breakthroughs, we’ve reached a critical point in our fight against the opioid epidemic, the time for lawmakers in California to act is now.

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