Opioid addiction is a national epidemic that has gone on for far too long. According to the CDC, forty four people die each day in the United States from prescription painkillers. And in my home state of Washington, researchers found that drug deaths involving opioids have increased 31 percent since the early 2000s.
These statistics are deeply disturbing. But what’s worse is the suffering behind these numbers.
Everyone from community leaders to local police chiefs and sheriffs tell me that our communities are struggling to meet the need for prevention, treatment, and care when it comes to opioid use disorders.
I hear far too many stories about lives taken completely off track by addiction, and about mothers and fathers who worry about the late-night calls they might get — or what it means if no call comes through. Everyone from community leaders to local police chiefs and sheriffs tell me that our communities are struggling to meet the need for prevention, treatment, and care when it comes to opioid use disorders.
So I’m proud to be working with Republicans and Democrats to conference legislation, the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), which would offer cities and states stronger tools to confront opioid addiction. And as part of that effort, I’ll be pushing for additional policies to better prevent and treat opioid addiction within the health care system — all of which have strong bipartisan support.
But I don’t think we can stop there. At this very minute, lives are being lost because far too many people with opioid addiction are unable to access treatment. If we truly want to address these gaps in care, Congress must invest new resources in this fight.
President Obama has laid out a strong proposal that would make much-needed investments in tackling the opioid epidemic, and Senate Democrats have consistently urged Republicans to join us in treating opioid addiction with the urgency it deserves by dedicating new funding to this effort. It’s time Congress acted.
I was pleased that as we began negotiations between the House and Senate, Republicans and Democrats expressed agreement that we need to truly invest in tackling this epidemic — so it’s my hope that as we continue working to reach a final agreement on the important legislation we’re currently debating, we can not only make valuable policy changes, but critically, ensure that they make as much difference as possible, as soon as possible. The families and communities we serve deserve nothing less.