He's perhaps the best known doctor on television. But Wednesday, Dr. Phil McGraw (a.k.a. Dr. Phil.) went to the phones.

Together, with U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Pa.) and U.S. Rep. Tom Marino (R-Pa.), he took calls from Pennsylvanians about the opioid epidemic in a telephone town hall event. It was McGraw's first tele-town hall with any federal lawmaker, Kelly said. The three men arranged the conference following a Congressional hearing earlier this year in which McGraw spoke on this issue.

“In the 90 minutes that we're on this call, five or six Americans are going to die with an opioid overdose,” McGraw said.

In 2016, Pennsylvania has the third most drug overdose deaths nationwide, many linked to medical opioids and illegal synthetics, such as fentanyl, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control.

The CDC also noted that 40 percent of all opioid deaths stem from prescription painkillers.

Medicine, McGraw says, has become a "high-volume" business.

“Sometimes, there is so much time pressure on doctors that they don't have the time or take the time to treat the whole patient instead of the syndrome,” McGraw said.

If you think someone you know is using and you want to confront them about it, Dr. Phil offers three key pointers:

  • Get your facts together -- any legal or medical paperwork about the loved one's past will help that, he said.
  • Tell them they deserve treatment, not that they need treatment.
  • Have a plan, should they accept your help.

“When you tell somebody what they 'need', they feel judged and they get real defensive,” said McGraw, stressing the plan.

As the epidemic gets worse, more than 600 local and state governments – including Erie County --, are suing the drug companies. President trump has also vowed the federal government will get involved.

Congressman Kelly said this town hall is set up in a way that gives Pennsylvanians a chance to remain anonymous, while learning more about this growing, and deadly crisis.

“We're going to take that stigma away from families that are facing this problem and say, 'you don't have to suffer in silence,” Kelly said.

 

How to get help

To get help in Pennsylvania, Kelly and McGraw offered a toll-free hotline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).