Lansing State Journal: Fight back against opioid crisis
Throughout Michigan, in communities big and small, the opioid crisis is taking lives and devastating the hopes and dreams of a generation.
Every 24 hours, we lose more than 100 Americans to this deadly epidemic. Here in Michigan, 2,376 people died of a drug overdose in 2016—an increase of nearly 20 percent from the previous year.
As I travel across Michigan’s 7th district, I’ve visited with families affected by addiction, hosted community forums, toured non-profits and recovery centers, and met with first responders and medical professionals who are on the front lines of this crisis. I’ve heard the heartbreaking stories, and calls for action, in every corner of my district.
Congress is listening and a legislative response is underway. Over the last two weeks, the House has considered more than 70 pieces of legislation, many of which originated through our work on the Energy and Commerce Committee.
These bipartisan bills tackle the opioid crisis from every direction. Some focus on advancing treatment and recovery programs and preventing opioid abuse before it begins. While others focus on providing more resources to local communities and seek to stop the supply chain of synthetic drugs like fentanyl.
Ultimately, these targeted solutions were combined into a sweeping legislative package, H.R. 6, the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act. It passed the House by an overwhelming vote of 396-14, and now heads to the Senate.
Included in this package are two bipartisan bills I authored with Congresswoman Debbie Dingell (D-Dearborn).
The first is Jessie’s Law. The bill is named after Jessie Grubb, a Michigan resident, who tragically overdosed on opioids she was given following a medical procedure, despite telling the hospital she was in recovery from an opioid addiction.
Jessie’s Law will help prevent overdose tragedies by ensuring medical professionals have access to a consenting patient’s complete health information so they can provide safe treatment and proper care.
Our second bill is the Safe Disposal of Unused Medication Act, which is aimed at stopping the misuse or diversion of opioids in a hospice setting. Many patients receiving this type of care need painkillers to assist with end-of-life pain.
Leftover medication, however, can languish in medicine cabinets, increasing the risk of diversion into the community. Equipping hospice professionals with the ability to safely dispose of unused drugs will help ensure they don’t end up in the wrong hands.
Another key aspect of our efforts is pushing back against the rise of fentanyl, a synthetic drug 50 times more potent than heroin. The STOP Act, introduced by Congressman Mike Bishop (R-Rochester), will help stop the flow of fentanyl into our communities by closing loopholes in the international mail system that drug traffickers are exploiting.
The solutions in this legislative package build off our work from the previous Congress when we enacted two landmark laws, the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act and the 21st Century Cures Act. These initiatives established state-based grants and directed more resources to the local level. And earlier this year, we provided $4 billion in additional resources to enhance enforcement, prevention, and treatment programs.
Taken together, these are substantial steps, but they will not be our last. We will continue to fight back against the opioid crisis, and restore hope to families in Michigan who struggle with addiction. There is not a moment to waste.
U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg represents Michigan’s 7th Congressional District and is a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee and the Bipartisan Heroin Task Force. This op-ed originally appeared in the July 8 edition of the Lansing State Journal.