U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-8th dist.) has joined both the Bipartisan Heroin Task Force and the Congressional Addiction, Treatment and Recovery Caucus.

A former drug crime federal prosecutor and certified emergency medical technician, Fitzpatrick has made combatting drug and opioid abuse and addiction a priority in his first term.

“The epidemic of opioid addiction and abuse – and the strains it puts on our communities and families – is too important to be put on the backburner,” he said. “Bucks and Montgomery county families can’t wait for a solution from Washington partisans; they deserve an independent voice willing to forgo the political games and focus on solutions. These groups are ready to make a difference, and, as a member, I’m ready to get to work.”

Addressing the House on the importance of this issue, Fitzpatrick called on representatives to work with stakeholders in their districts to provide the comprehensive response needed to combat the epidemic.

“Mr. Speaker, heroin and prescription opioid abuse are devastating communities across our nation. From Levittown to Lower Salford – no part of my district is left unaffected by this epidemic. Last year in Bucks County, opioid related deaths rose by 50 percent. In Montgomery County, opioid overdose claimed a staggering 240 lives. Mr. Speaker, every fatality represents a family crushed by the overwhelming loss of a loved one. As lawmakers, we have the responsibility to act. Passage of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act and 21st Century Cures were monumental first steps in countering the opioid crisis, but we must continue to press the issue from all sides – from the trafficking of narcotics across our border to preventing the overprescribing of painkillers.

“Congress alone cannot solve this problem.     We must be ready and willing to work with state and local leaders, law enforcement, healthcare professionals and educators in our districts. We are all stakeholders in this challenge. Together, we can eradicate this epidemic, we can protect our families, and we can free our communities from this menace.”

Meanwhile, Fitzpatrick is spending time meeting with constituents, local leaders, law enforcement and others to discuss work being done in Congress to address the nation’s opioid epidemic and ensure local concerns and solutions are part of the national discussion.

“There are few issues more pressing in our own neighborhoods than the devastation caused by the growing epidemic of opioid and drug abuse,” he said. “While community groups, local government and law enforcement have undertaken the Herculean challenge of addressing this issue from all its sides, it is clear there is a crucial role for Congress to play in supporting and expanding these efforts. To this mission, my staff and I are entirely committed.”

As a member of the Homeland Security Committee, Fitzpatrick questioned Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly on the connection between the southern border and Pennsylvania’s opioid epidemic. When asked, Kelly agreed there was a direct link and action is needed to address the drugs and drug money before they cross into the U.S.