OP-ED: How to fight the war against opioids
The opioid epidemic is wreaking havoc across the country and it’s destroying families and derailing lives right here in our community. Last year, 231 people died from opioids in Bucks County alone – a 35 percent increase from 2016. Since 2000, more than 300,000 Americans nationwide have died from opioid overdoses and thousands more struggle daily to stay in recovery and get back on track.
This crisis isn’t going away. It’s only getting worse.
As your representative in Congress, I’m working every day to combat the crisis by focusing on each of its many aspects. If we want to win this war, we need to confront the threat on all its fronts: from increasing access to treatment and prevention initiatives to improving law enforcement efforts. As a vice-chair of the Bipartisan Heroin Task Force, here’s the legislative battleplan we’re building:
Prevention: The best way to beat back the grip of opioid addiction is to prevent it from taking hold in the first place. Using evidence-based drug and mental health education programs in schools and encouraging proper disposal of unwanted or expired medication are crucial to reducing demand for these drugs. [H.R. 1554, H.R. 664]
Treatment: Through the 21st Century Cures Act and Comprehensive Addiction Recovery Act (CARA), Congress is making more than a billion dollars in funding available to states and communities to increase prevention and treatment efforts. There’s more to do, including passing my Road to Recovery Act to eliminate Medicaid Institutions for Mental Diseases (IMD) exclusion for substance use disorder and help states expand access to inpatient treatment for Medicaid enrollees. [H.R. 1575, H.R. 2938, H.R. 3692]
Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice: Whether protecting our borders or our communities, law enforcement is on the front line in this fight. They need the tools and training necessary to stem the tide of deadly drugs entering the country — like with my INTERDICT Act that provides U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) the latest in chemical screening devices and scientific support to detect and intercept fentanyl and other synthetic opioids. Additionally, we need to ensure that the Drug Enforcement Administration has the authority to carry out needed enforcement actions for drug diversion control investigations by passing my RESTORE Act to repeal the Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act. [H.R. 2142, H.R. 982]
Children and Families: Every 25 minutes a baby is born addicted to opioids. When addressing substance use disorder, we always need to consider the impact on children and families. [H.R. 449, H.R. 2501]
Veterans Affairs: For those who served our country, the scars of war often last a lifetime. Tragically, too many veterans are over-prescribed opioids or seek to self-medicate and now suffer from addiction. We need to reform the VA’s prescribing methods and support military and veteran pain management research. [H.R. 1545, H.R. 2147,U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Pain Center of Excellence]
Prescribing: In 2010, over 290,000,000 opioid prescriptions were written. As the problem of over-prescription has been identified, the overall number of opioid prescriptions has dropped, but opioid-related deaths continue to rise. We need to continue reducing the number of opioids prescribed while also acting on my MONITOR Act — bipartisan legislation that cracks down on ‘doctor shopping’ by better tracking the purchase of controlled-substances. [H.R. 4075, H.R. 3964, H.R. 3528, H.R. 4236]
The scourge of the opioid epidemic touches every segment of our community through the loss of jobs, homes, education, families, futures and lives. Public awareness is finally starting to catch up with the facts on the ground, but there is still work to do. This crisis cannot be solved by Washington alone. We need to confront the opioid epidemic by reducing the stigma surrounding substance use disorder, supporting those recovering from this disease and enact smart policies that attack this multi-facet issue. Each of us — individuals, parents, teachers, law enforcement, medical professionals, elected officials - must work together to confront the opioid epidemic. It’s a fight we must win.