Latta in the Findlay Courier: Progress Made Against Opioid Crisis, but Work Continues
Congressman Bob Latta (R-Bowling Green) authored a column in today’s Findlay Courier that reflects on the progress made to curb the opioid epidemic in the last year. On October 24, 2018, President Trump signed H.R. 6, the SUPPORT Act into law. That legislation was the most comprehensive effort to combat a drug crisis in U.S. history.
The article can be seen in the Ecourier edition available here.
GUEST VIEW H.R. 6: A Work in Progress
In my role as Congressman for Ohio’s 5th Congressional District, I hear often from citizens on issues across the spectrum. I talk to them about what is going well in their lives and what could be better. They tell me stories – both good and bad – about how they’ve been impacted by government policies, the economy, regulations, taxes, and more. Without a doubt, some of the most heartbreaking, toughest conversations I’ve had come from those who have been affected by the opioid crisis in our country.
With 72,000 Americans dying from overdoses in 2017, we lost more people to drugs than we did during the Vietnam War. Lives were lost in cities, in suburbs, and in our rural communities because of opioids. I listened with my colleagues on the Energy and Commerce Committee as parents fought back tears as they told a packed hearing room how opioids had taken the lives of their sons and daughters. I’ll never forget the anguish in their voices as they shared how this crisis had claimed their all-American boy or girl, and how they felt helpless to do anything about it.
In Ohio, we were hit particularly hard, and there was no corner of the state that was left untouched.
Something had to be done.
That’s why one year ago this week, Congress passed the most comprehensive legislation to combat a drug crisis in our nation’s history. H.R. 6, the SUPPORT Act, was a true bipartisan effort to prevent opioid abuse, treat addiction, and stop the flow of opioids into our communities. Legislation I authored, the INFO Act, was included in H.R. 6 and would create a dashboard to help communities better access grant information and funding options. The idea came from discussions with advocates, medical providers, law enforcement, and local officials who didn’t know that resources were available or how to access them. For areas that were overwhelmed by the scope of the problem, this information would make a huge difference.
I’ve worked with other leaders on the Energy and Commerce Committee to press the Department of Health and Human Services to get this dashboard up and running, and I’m hopeful that they will move quickly to ensure this information is available.
In addition, H.R. 6 made other policy changes that are making a difference in this fight. For instance, Jessie’s Law improves the way that health care providers can access patient records to ensure that they are not prescribing opioids to somebody who has struggled with addiction. The legislation also included a provision that requires the U.S. Postal Service to send data to U.S. Customs and Border Protection to help prevent the importation of fentanyl into the country. Fentanyl is extremely lethal and was responsible for much of the spike we saw in overdoses in recent years. Stopping it at our borders can save lives.
Recently, we learned that preliminary data shows that overdose deaths fell in 2018. While the number of deaths is far too high – and any lose of life is tragic – there is promise in the reversal of the skyrocketing death rate we had seen in the years before. With improved education, efforts by law enforcement, increased pain management alternatives, and greater access to treatment, we’re seeing progress.
As the SUPPORT Act continues to be implemented, there is hope that we can prevent more people from becoming hooked on addictive drugs, and we can help those that are already addicted. We knew when H.R. 6 was signed into law that the struggle against this epidemic was not going to be easy, but we now have more tools to provide solutions. When it comes to ending this crisis, failure is not an option.