United States Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar was in Dayton Friday to attend a listening session on opioids at Brigid’s Path in Kettering, an inpatient treatment facility that specializes in caring for drug-exposed newborns.
Following morning discussions, Azar reaffirmed to reporters the Trump administration’s commitment to fighting the opioid crisis.
“But he made it also a particular priority to listen to those on the front lines here in the state, at the local level, to understand how we can help you,” he said.
Azar said the administration is devoting billions of dollars to fighting the national epidemic on multiple levels, including funding the research and development of new pain medications that do not include opioids.
Several Miami Valley families affected by opioids attended the event along with local officials, including Montgomery County Juvenile Court Judge Anthony Capizzi and Congressman Mike Turner (R-Dayton).
Capizzi had just returned from a two-day trip to Washington D.C., where he spoke with Congressional leaders about the opioid crisis.
Brigid's Path is Ohio's first treatment center for drug-exposed babies. It opened in 2015 with the mission to provide inpatient medical care for newborns with neonatal abstinence syndrome, also known as NAS.
At the event, Brigid's Path Executive Director Jill Kingston highlighted the center's accomplishments in the few months the organization has been operating at the Dixie Dr. facility.
"The difference that it makes to have babies in a home-like setting is tremendous," she said.
"We've had all of our babies stay out of foster care when they leave here, so it's been a huge blessing to be able to partner with the families, connect them to the services that are already in our community and advocate for the families through this journey that they're facing."
Brigid's Path is a privately funded organization. Kingston said she hopes that one day the center will be eligible to become a Medicaid-approved facility.
Kingston thanked Azar for his visit and his willingness to take Brigid's Path's message back to Washington. The HHS secretary said, after seeing the work being done at Brigid's Path, he would look, "to see what we can do to be supportive and helpful."
But, he also stated that ultimately it's up to individual states to decide what organizations their Medicaid programs will fund.