By Jesef Williams
When UF Health Jacksonville’s Joseph Cammilleri, Pharm.D., was contacted about participating in an opioid-awareness event involving former President Bill Clinton, he didn’t think he would get the chance to speak with him directly.
Not only did Cammilleri meet Clinton, he spent several minutes with him one-on-one, educating the 42nd president about the ongoing opioid epidemic and showing him how to use a naloxone nasal spray, which reverses the effects of an opioid overdose.
Clinton came to Northeast Florida on Oct. 31 to check on various Clinton Foundation health programs and initiatives, and the opioid crisis was among the issues addressed. Cammilleri, an ambulatory care clinical pharmacist at UF Health Jacksonville and a clinical assistant professor with the UF College of Pharmacy, met Clinton that day as part of his role on a special heroin and opioid task force in Duval County. He was among a group who spent about 30 minutes talking with Clinton about the widespread abuse of drugs, both prescribed and illicit, used to relieve pain.
“We met with President Clinton a lot longer than I thought we would,” Cammilleri said. “I didn’t realize I was going to have the opportunity to also talk with him one-on-one. But it was easy to do because this is my profession and the topic is something I’m passionate about, helping to curb the opioid epidemic.”
Cammilleri emphasized the importance of provider and patient education, mentioning a few specific interactive programs that promote appropriate, safe and effective use of opioids to manage chronic pain. He told Clinton everyone should treat the opioid problem with the same seriousness as the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the 1980s.
Clinton watched intently as Cammilleri showed him how the naloxone nasal spray functions. He said it’s something people should keep at home.
“If you have that spray, you can use it while waiting for first responders,” Cammilleri said. “The hope is that it will keep the person alive while help is on the way, because time does matter.”
Cammilleri said he was impressed by how engaging and personable Clinton was during the demonstration, which lasted about five minutes.
“He was truly interested in what I had to say,” he said. “It was definitely surreal and very exciting, and was probably a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”