"There's nothing I'm more passionate about than saving lives," says Deborah Hersman, who was installed as the CEO of the National Safety Council (NSC) earlier this month after spending ten years as the chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). Hersman is hoping that her experience at the NTSB will carry over into her new job at the NSC, which is a non-profit group chartered by Congress that focuses on reducing the amount of people who die unintentionally from severe injuries.
One of the issues that Hersman wants to focus on is reducing the amount of unintentional deaths from accidental drug overdoses. Hersman says that of the 38,000 Americans that die each year from accidental drug overdoses, 16,000 die from overdosing on prescription pain killers. "This is an issue that we really want to bring to the forefront," Hersman told USA Today. "I think most people think drug addiction and drug deaths are about illegal drugs. We're killing more people in prescription situations than with cocaine and heroin combined."
The NSC's approach to combatting the country's prescription drug issue includes:
- Ensuring that communication between the state and drug monitoring systems are done in real-time to ensure that people aren't receiving multiple prescriptions from different pharmacies.
- Educating doctors to monitor for abuse and dependency.
- Enhancing drug enforcement to crack down on "pill mills" and pharmacy-shopping.
- Allowing the first on scene to an accidental overdose (including drug users and family members) access to Naloxene, which is used to combat opioids.
- Providing immunity or mitigation from prosecution to those who report overdoses.
Some of the other areas of focus that the NSC plans to tackle under the direction of Hersman include teen driving safety, distracted driving, workplace safety and educating communities about injury prevention.