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Spurred by an uncle’s overdose, a Medicaid official changes course

A revelation over coffee made the drug crisis deeply personal for former Medicaid official Andrey Ostrovsky, prompting him to act.
Source: DOMINICK REUTER/AFP/Getty Images

Andrey Ostrovsky’s family did not discuss what killed his uncle. He was young, not quite two weeks past his 45th birthday, when he died, and he had lost touch with loved ones in his final months. Ostrovsky speculated he had committed suicide.

Almost two years later, Ostrovsky was Medicaid’s chief medical officer, grappling with an opioid crisis that kills about 115 Americans each day, when he learned the truth: His uncle died of a drug overdose.

His family knew the uncle’s life had been turbulent for a while before his death, watching as he divorced his wife and became estranged from his 4-year-old daughter and eventually lost his job as a furniture store manager. But Ostrovsky wanted to understand what happened to his uncle, his stepfather’s younger brother. So, last fall when

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