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Toledo Blade Op-Ed: Bob Latta: New Legislation Could Help Combat the Opioid Crisis

Washington, June 25, 2018 | Drew Griffin (202-225-6405)

It just takes listening to one father or mother who has lost a loved one to an opioid overdose to understand the devastating effect that this crisis is having across the country. When you listen to their stories you understand that no matter your circumstances, this problem can hit home very quickly and unexpectedly.

The Energy and Commerce Committee, on which I serve, recently heard testimony from family members who had lost a loved one to opioid addiction. It was an emotional day as we listened to people who had experienced such heartbreaking loss. At the same time, those who testified were full of resolve to do what they could to prevent this from happening to other families.

While the people testifying travelled to D.C. from around the country, I’ve heard similar stories from around the 14 counties I represent. Constituents have told me what this epidemic has meant to them, their families, and their communities. It’s clear that when it comes to the opioid crisis, Ohio is ground zero. The most recent data we have says that an average of 14 Ohioans are lost each day — and that number has most assuredly grown as dangerous fentanyl and carfentanil has found its way into more and more drugs.

Aside from the loss of life, this epidemic has strained resources in our communities, posed news dangers for law enforcement, and stretched our legal system thin.

I’ve held forums and roundtables around Ohio’s 5th Congressional District to hear from the health care providers, pharmacists, advocates, state and local officials, and law enforcement about the epidemic and what can be done. Those that are working to reverse these devastating trends are the ones best equipped to help policymakers understand potential solutions.

Many shared that they had difficulty finding information and resources that could be useful. This was especially frustrating because Congress has provided record levels of funding to combat this crisis through the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) and 21st Century Cures Act. However, we need to ensure these resources make it to those on the ground.

This lack of information has to change in order to put an end to this epidemic.

I’ve authored the Indexing Narcotics, Fentanyl, and Opioids (INFO) Act to create a one-stop-shop for information as it relates to the opioid epidemic. The bill would ensure that data, grant funding information, and other resources would be put in one easy-to-find place. For example, grant information would be more easily accessible for local governments. The legislation has bipartisan support and was approved by the U.S. House of Representatives recently.

In fact, I’ve worked with my colleagues on the House Energy and Commerce Committee to push through a number of pieces of legislation. The committee approved 57 bills in the last month and more than 40 of those bills were passed on the House floor the last two weeks. This is along with approximately two-dozen other bills covering eight different committees’ jurisdictions. We’re leaving no stone unturned.

These pieces of legislation will help encourage alternative treatment for pain management, stop the importation of illicit drugs, and improve access for treatment. We can’t wait any longer to act in a comprehensive manner — attacking this problem from all directions. I hope the Senate can see just how urgent it is that we don’t delay in our efforts to get these bills to President Trump’s desk.

I don’t need to tell Ohioans how important it is that we need to move quickly — they’re seeing this crisis affect friends and family members. We’re losing people every day. It’s time for action.

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