Dr. Ferrara's Blog
Communities in Arizona and across America are seeing their social fabric unraveled by the scourge of the opioid epidemic.
The numbers are staggering. Each year we are losing as many Americans to opioid overdose than we lost during the entire Vietnam War. This growing pandemic led to 790 deaths in our state in 2016 – the highest annual total in Arizona’s history.
This violent killer is largely a potent synthetic narcotic known as fentanyl. The Department of Homeland Security has identified two sources for this illicit fentanyl threat: China and Mexico. Labs in China illicitly produce the drug, 50-100 times more potent than morphine, and ship it to Mexico. Ruthless drug cartels exploit this lucrative trade to kill Americans and devastate survivors. A single cartel purchase of $3,000 -$5,000 of fentanyl sells for $1.5 million on the illicit market; making it even more profitable than heroin.
According to a recent hearing by the House Energy and Commerce Oversight Committee, most of the fentanyl is being smuggled across a “porous border” with Mexico. Trafficking occurs by foot, car, drone, or even launched by catapult. Fentanyl also poses a unique risk to our brave law enforcement agents: during apprehension of these smugglers lethal doses can be inhaled and absorbed through the skin.
Our strategy to combat this menace must be multifaceted:
- We must immediately secure our southern border and deny drug cartels access to our communities.
- We must find and prosecute those who launder illicit drug money.
- We must pressure China to crack down on the laboratories that produce these drugs.
As a physician, I know firsthand what a devastating toll this takes on patients and families. In addition to legislative strategies to combat this problem, I’ll ensure that we commit the resources necessary to develop alternative means to prevent patients from becoming addicted to painkillers and to break the cycle of addiction.
As a 25-year Navy Veteran with three deployments – Army, Navy, and Marine Corps, I know what it means to serve our nation in harm’s way. The selfless dedication of our men and women in uniform inspires me each and every day.
We owe it to our Veterans to keep our promises and ensure they have what they need when they come home. That means access to a world-class healthcare system to heal the wounds they bore for our nation; and never forsaking those for whom the battle continues to rage after they’ve come home.
My commitment to Veterans didn’t end when I retired from active duty in 2016. I hung up the uniform on a Friday and was working as a doctor at the Phoenix VA the next Monday. Rather than take a less challenging or more financially rewarding position elsewhere in Phoenix, I knew the VA was where I was needed most and where I could quickly make a big impact on the lives of Veterans. As the first interventional radiologist on staff there in decades, I established programs to care for Veterans with cancer and liver disease and built the system’s first clinic and consultation service of its kind. That’s what personal commitment to Veterans is all about.
Working at the Phoenix VA allowed me to witness firsthand the valiant effort so many hard-working and dedicated staff make each day to improve the health and well-being of our community’s Vets. It also showed me the areas where we must improve. We need to fix a badly broken HR system that allows the few bad apples to ruin the barrel. It doesn’t empower capable leaders with the authority or agility to hire the right people to accomplish their mission. The system rewards employees who perform or behave poorly by allowing endless appeals and administrative actions, all the while blocking the ability to replace that person with someone who is capable and eager to work.
The VA system is plagued by contracting and supply challenges that are managed from a distance by bureaucrats, people disconnected from patient care who are out of touch with the folks in the trenches working hard on behalf of Veterans. This results in shortages, mismatches, and cost overruns – this is bad for Veterans and for taxpayers.
Some of these fixes can be accomplished locally, but many require acts of Congress.
I KNOW HOW THE SYSTEM WORKS, I KNOW HOW TO FIX IT.
As a Veteran, a doctor, and a former VA employee I will bring firsthand experience to Congress that no other member of Congress can. I’ll make the changes Veterans in Phoenix need to receive the care they earned.