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USA Today Column: “The Senate must put politics aside and treat opioid addiction as the health crisis it is.”


WASHINGTON, DC – An op-ed in USA Today is calling on the Senate to act on legislation to help combat the opioid crisis, which claims the lives of 115 Americans each and every day.

The column cites the House’s June passage of H.R. 6, the Substance Use-Disorder Prevention that Promotes Opioid Recovery and Treatment (SUPPORT) for Patients and Communities Act, which included dozens of bills that will advance treatment and recovery initiatives, improve prevention, protect our communities, and bolster our efforts to fight deadly illicit synthetic drugs like fentanyl.

“This is about the life and death of neighbors and loved ones,” writes Michael King, Director of Outreach & Engagement for Facing Addiction with NCADD. “The Senate must put politics aside and treat opioid addiction as the health crisis it is.”

Opioid addition is a full-on public health crisis but the Senate isn’t acting that way

If this were any other public health crisis, decisive action would have been taken long ago.

Three hundred and fifty of our sons, daughters, brothers, daughters, husbands, and wives are lost every day to alcohol and other drugs, including opioids.

The House passed the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act on June 22 — a package of more than 50 individual opioid bills designed to help communities in dire need. They cover everything from stronger guidance for sober living facilities to ensuring treatment for those who overdose to studying new pain management protocols and treatments.

And, yet despite the overwhelming 396-14 vote in the House 10 weeks ago and the death toll rising in our communities, the Senate is still mulling details and trying to reach an agreement.

I am a person in long-term recovery. For me, that means I haven’t had a drink or a drug, and haven’t place a bet, since Feb. 16, 2013. Recovery has given me a new way of life. I’m a taxpayer, a loving, responsible and attentive father, a conscientious friend and partner, and a voter.

Addiction had taken everything from me — a political career I valued, a home and all my finances. But most importantly, addiction stole my dignity. It snatched my sense of self and held it in its grips. It took a lot of pain and heartache, for myself and for those around me, to break the grip this devastating illness had on me and find recovery.

Over 20 million Americans are currently suffering from a substance use disorder — but there are 23 million more in recovery from alcohol and other drug problems. These numbers are daunting. This is not an obscure illness. To put it in perspective, this adds up to one in three households on your block who directly impacted by addiction.

Untreated addiction costs our economy $442 billion and nine out of 10 individuals in need of treatment don’t receive it. And yet despite the colossal failure of the war on drugs, too many in our communities continue to believe that addiction is solely a law enforcement problem that requires solutions within the criminal justice system instead of health care.

As the death toll rises, we can’t continue down this road. In order to change course and take the addiction response closer to health-care driven solutions, Senate leaders must stop playing politics. This is about life and death for our loved ones and our neighbors.

Whether we are Democrats, Republicans, independents or apolitical, we are just as susceptible as anyone else to be affected by addiction. That’s why Senate leaders must act, and act soon. Your life and the lives of your loved ones may depend on it.

To read the full column, click here.

To learn more about Energy and Commerce’s comprehensive efforts to combat the opioid crisis, click here. To learn more about the House’s comprehensive efforts to combat the opioid crisis, click here.


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