ICYMI: Upton in South Bend Tribune: Addressing the Opioid Crisis
July 27, 2016
Addressing the Opioid Crisis
By Fred Upton
The simple truth is that we’re in the middle of an opioid abuse epidemic. Nearly every 12 minutes, someone in America dies of a drug overdose and the Centers for Disease Control reports that more than a quarter billion opioid prescriptions were written in 2012 alone. Abuse of opioids has impacted every community. In my home state of Michigan, we are enduring 10 times as many deaths today as there were 15 years ago. Indiana was ranked 16th nationally for drug overdose deaths in 2013.
Our efforts to address this opioid crisis date back to 2015. We started with bipartisan hearings and round tables — listening to experts, stakeholders, individuals in recovery, and families as to what we in Congress could do to stem the tide of this epidemic and help those in real need. Folks on the front lines traveled to Washington to testify, including Cass County Prosecutor Victor Fitz.
What we heard was eye-opening. One area of agreement was that these dangerous drugs must not get into the hands our kids. Nearly 800,000 children between the ages of 12 and 17 tried opioids for the first time within the past year. We also agreed that our legislation should not unjustly penalize patients who legally use opioids to alleviate chronic pain.
Recently, the House of Representatives advanced a conference report for S. 524, the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, by a vote of 407-5. I was proud to chair the conference committee that worked to get the details of this package right — ironing out the differences between the House and Senate packages in an effort to achieve consensus. What our package will do is attack this public health crisis from all sides, from zeroing in on treatment for addiction and overdoses, to reforming prescribing practices and the delivery of medicines, and working with our law enforcement. We also made a targeted funding authorization of $181 million to help on a wide array of opioid abuse efforts.
Because of our common-sense approach, our package achieved the support of more than 250 of the nation’s leading addiction advocacy groups. Then, last week, the U.S. Senate advanced our package by a vote of 92-2. Last week, President Obama signed the comprehensive package into law.
Lives are at stake, and this critical legislation will help make a real difference.
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