Bipartisan solutions to fight the opioid crisis

Posted on May 22, 2018 10:44 am CDT

By Congressman Billy Long,

Last month, the Energy and Commerce Committee held a bipartisan roundtable discussion with families that have lost children and otherwise been impacted by the opioid crisis. These men and women shared their heartbreaking stories of loved ones affected by this devastating crisis. As I listened to these stories, I couldn’t help but think of some of my close friends and the children they lost to this epidemic. It reminded me once again that this issue hits every part of the country.

Each day, 115 people in the U.S. die from an opioid overdose. From 2015 to 2016, there was a 27 percent increase in deaths because of this epidemic. This has become such a problem that in 2016, the life expectancy rate in the U.S. dropped because of the increased amount of deaths from opioid overdoses. According to the Centers for Disease Control, prescription or illicit opioids accounted for nearly two-thirds of drug overdoses in 2016.

As this problem has rapidly grown, our efforts to combat it have as well. This spring, the Energy and Commerce Committee held several legislative hearings to address this epidemic. And we’re not just talking about the problem, we’re proposing real solutions that will tackle this issue head-on. In May, the Energy and Commerce Committee approved over 60 bills that comprehensively address this problem.

One of those areas is the treatment for substance abuse. Increasing access and options for treatment has been a consistent problem when it comes to opioid abuse. Many areas in my district, including Joplin, lack sufficient treatment options for those struggling with addiction. In 2016, more than 900 people died of opioid overdoses in Missouri, which is a 35 percent increase from the previous year. Our opioids legislation makes sure health facilities, especially in rural areas, get the resources they need to treat patients experiencing substance abuse.

One of the most critical issues is finding a long-term solution to exposure to opioids. Forty million patients a year receive opioids for pain management following surgery, and finding safer alternatives for pain management can help reduce chronic opioid use. One of many bills recently proposed to address this is H.R. 5718, the Perioperative Reduction of Opioids Act. This bill would work toward decreasing the number of opioids during surgery and encourage the use of alternative pain management to reduce reliance on opioids.

H.R. 5718 is one of many pieces of legislation proposed that addresses the alternative treatment options. The Energy and Commerce Committee will work hard to bring these bipartisan bills to the floor. This epidemic has taken too many lives, and Congress is firmly committed to addressing this crisis.

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