Fighting the Prescription Drug and Heroin Epidemic
A prescription drug and heroin epidemic is currently sweeping our state and the nation. Opioid deaths have surpassed 30,000 for the first time in history. I have personally seen tragedy play out in our community due to the readily available nature of these drugs. In Ohio, fatal drug overdoses have been the leading cause of accidental death since 2007, with heroin-involved deaths rising from 16 percent of all drug overdoses in 2008 to 22 percent in 2010. These numbers are unacceptable, and more needs to be done to stem the ever-growing tide. As Co-Chair of the Congressional Addiction, Treatment and Recovery Caucus and member of the Bipartisan Task Force to Combat the Heroin Epidemic, I have made it my priority to educate and raise awareness about the dangers of heroin and opioid abuse.
Substance abuse costs our nation $600 billion in health care, criminal justice, and lost productivity costs, but that is nothing compared to the toll it takes on our families and friends. We cannot continue to allow heroin and prescription drugs to wreak havoc on our communities.
Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery (CARA) Act
In the 114th Congress, I introduced the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery (CARA) Act to provide for a robust response to the heroin and prescription drug epidemic through prevention, law enforcement strategies, and the expansion of evidence-based treatment. I am proud that President Obama signed this important piece of legislation into law.
The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2016 expands prevention and educational efforts to prevent the abuse of opioids, increases the availability of naloxone to law enforcement agencies and other responders, and strengthen prescription drug monitoring programs to help states monitor and track prescription drug diversion and to help at-risk individuals access services. Furthermore, it creates a grant program to states to carry out a comprehensive opioid abuse response, reauthorizes a grant program for residential treatment for pregnant and postpartum women who have an opioid-use disorder and for their children, and expands prescription drug take-back programs.
I am also a proud supporter of the 21st Century Cures Act, which was signed into law. This legislation provides $1 billion over two years to combat the opioid epidemic.
Increasing Access to Treatment
Right now, 2.1 million Americans abuse prescription pain relievers, yet only 1 in 10 gets treated. I believe we must make substance abuse treatment more accessible and affordable for anyone who makes the courageous decision to get help. That is why in the 114th Congress, Congresswoman Marcia Fudge (OH-11) and I introduced the Breaking Addiction Act. This bill establishes a demonstration project to study the impact of allowing Medicaid reimbursement for substance abuse treatment in community-based Institutions for Mental Diseases. In response, the Akron City Council passed a resolution expressing their support for the Breaking Addiction Act.
Expand Treatment and Recovery for Infants, Pregnant Women
We need to make sure we are doing everything in our power to protect the most vulnerable and innocent victims of this epidemic – infants. That is why I cosponsored the Protecting Our Infants Act, which creates a report on prenatal opioid abuse and neonatal abstinence syndrome, and develops strategies to address gaps in research and programs. I also cosponsored the Improving Treatment for Pregnant and Postpartum Women Act, which reauthorizes the residential treatment programs for pregnant and postpartum women.