Lansing State Journal: Tackling the opioid crisis one year later
One year ago, I had the privilege of being at the White House as President Donald Trump signed the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act into law. It was a sweeping package of bipartisan bills, more than 70, that we passed in response to the opioid crisis – a nationwide epidemic that has taken the lives of too many of our friends and loved ones.
Within the SUPPORT Act are two bills I coauthored with Congresswoman Debbie Dingell, one of which addresses proper disposal methods of painkillers following end of life care. The second one, Jessie’s Law, helps ensure that medical professionals have access to a consenting patient’s addiction history in order to make fully informed care and treatment decisions.
Following the one-year anniversary, it should be emphasized that this landmark law marked the continuation – not the conclusion – of a unified effort in Congress, in partnership and coordination with local communities, to battle the opioid crisis.
Every day, an estimated 130 people from all walks of life die from an opioid overdose. The heartbreaking reality of these statistics remains personal for me after a good friend from Michigan lost his battle with addiction late last year. This fight goes on and we must renew our work to identify more solutions to help those in or on the path to recovery.
Last month, the Trump Administration announced $1.8 billion in grants, including $28 million for Michigan, to help increase medication-assisted treatment and mental health resources. They are also stepping up efforts to seize illicit drugs and stop them from flowing into our country and communities.
Particularly troubling is the rise of fentanyl, a synthetic drug 50 times the potency of heroin which in 2017 contributed to nearly 30,000 overdose fatalities.
In addition to significant legislation and investments at the federal level, we need to boost community-focused initiatives as well. Throughout my district, I have had the chance to speak with high school students about the dangers of addiction, hold round-tables with the substance abuse coalitions, meet with local law enforcement, support graduates of local drug courts, and hear from countless families who have been impacted in one way or another by this tragic epidemic. Programs like these to enhance prevention and treatment, carried out on the local level, are essential to this effort.
Members of the community had an opportunity to do their part on October 26, which was National Prescription Drug Take Back Day. It was a chance to dispose of expired prescription drugs in a safe, convenient and responsible way. Every person’s effort – no matter how small – can help make a big difference.
We have seen glimmers of hope thanks to the major bipartisan steps we have taken to combat the opioid crisis. For the first time in three decades, there has been a nationwide decline in overdose deaths. Yet as we mark the SUPPORT Act’s anniversary, and have reasons to be optimistic, we must also recognize that we are far from the conclusion of this battle.
Let’s continue working together – local, state, federal officials – to save lives and stop the opioid crisis in its tracks.
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 October 30 edition of the Lansing State Journal.