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Monroe News: Redoubling our efforts to fight the opioid crisis

April 16, 2019
Opinion Editorial

Towards the end of last year, a friend of mine lost his battle with addiction. His beloved parents lost a son before the age of thirty. He was a brother, uncle, and friend to many.

We first met through local advocates working to raise awareness about the opioid crisis. We spoke on panels together where he would courageously share his personal struggles as a cautionary tale to young people.

Sadly, this heartbreaking story is not unique. Too many families know the pain and suffering that comes from drug addiction and its impacts.

Unlike many topics that make headlines in Washington, this is an issue that transcends political party. It is about people, their future, and the well-being of our community. And we’ve been able to find common ground to make a positive difference.

This past year, Congress passed, and President Trump signed, a landmark law to confront issues related to opioid addiction. H.R. 6, the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act, is a comprehensive package of bills designed to reverse the devastating trends across America.

Included in this bipartisan package are two bills I co-authored with Congresswoman Debbie Dingell. One of them addresses proper disposal methods of painkillers during end of life care so they don’t languish in medicine cabinets and end up in the wrong hands. Another, Jessie’s Law, helps ensure that medical professionals have access to information about a consenting patient’s addiction history, equipping doctors to provide safe treatment and proper care.

As a whole, the law includes numerous provisions to strengthen and expand prevention, treatment, and recovery programs, while directing more resources to the local level. It also has measures to crack down on the supply of drugs to help keep them off our streets and away from plaguing our neighborhoods.

The synthetic drug fentanyl is of particular concern. With a potency fifty times greater than heroin, fentanyl is now the deadliest drug in America. It contributed to nearly 30,000 overdose fatalities alone in 2017. Primarily manufactured in China, fentanyl traffickers have been exploiting loopholes-which our legislation aims to close-in the international mail system to ship it overseas and bring it across our nation’s borders.

With greater education efforts, we can also help prevent people, especially the next generation, from falling into addiction. Here in Michigan, groups like the Monroe County Substance Abuse Coalition are leading the way in reaching students and sharing with them the gravity of drug addiction. These community- based efforts are critical to keeping young people on the right path.

Offering a helping hand to those in recovery must also be a continued focus. I recently had the chance to attend a graduation ceremony at a local drug court, which are just one of many ways to break the cycle of addiction. We want to help people get back on their feet, back to work, and have a second chance at realizing their dreams.

While we have taken bipartisan and sweeping action, it is critical to redouble our legislative efforts in this Congress. That includes making sure the new law is being successfully implemented and we are building on its foundation with new solutions. In addition, we need to keep pursuing the Energy and Commerce Committee’s bipartisan investigation into leading opioid distributors and the role they play in this crisis.

By continuing to work together, we can offer a brighter path and save people’s lives. It is my hope, as a result, tragic funerals for our friends and loved ones will be fewer and far between.

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 April 16 edition of the Monroe News.