Dr. Patrice Harris is the chair of the American Medical Association's Opioid Task Force. On Friday, OSF Saint Anthony invited her to its 79th May Day Medical Conference to speak on the importance physicians play in the crisis.
Harris says when it comes to making a dent in the epidemic, it'll take a team effort.
"We need to make sure physicians are involved, law enforcement is involved, hospitals are involved, nurses, patients, it really is an all in proposition," says Harris.
Harris believes the epidemic has evolved.
"Prescription opiates are no longer the major driver, right now illicit heroin and fentanyl are the major drivers of overdoses and unfortunately death. We do even see carfentanyl which was developed to tranquilize horses and rhinos and elephants."
Dr. Harris says people should not forget those who are in chronic pain and rely on these medications. And says while there's solutions like surgery, cognitive and physical therapy, and acupuncture, that's still not a perfect solution.
"But those alternatives are not always equally available so we have to make sure those are covered in the same way other medical alternative treatments are covered."
Ultimately, experts believe awareness, and keeping the conversation going are key.
"We feel it's a very important problem in our community and we wanted to raise awareness for it and give our healthcare providers for dealing with an improving care in that area," says OSF Director of Medical Education Dr. Charles Welford.
"The more we talk about the science and the brain disorder, it is a brain disorder and not a character flaw or moral failing I think that will go a long way in reducing stigma," says Harris.