Confirmed and estimated opioid deaths in Massachusetts in 2014 (Massachusetts Department of Public Health)

Vote Explanations for H.R. 4641 and H.R. 5046

This week I voted for two bills that help us get closer to ending the opioid epidemic. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 28,000 people died in 2014 from prescription opioid pain relievers and heroin. The crisis has impacted every community and demographic in our country, including the Sixth District, which has some of the highest overdose death rates in Massachusetts. That is why I am proud that this week, Democrats and Republicans came together to address the growing health crisis.

H.R. 4641 — To provide for the establishment of an inter-agency task force to review, modify, and update best practices for pain management and prescribing pain medication, and for other purposes

H.R. 4641 establishes an inter-agency task force charged with reviewing and updating best practices for pain management and prescribing pain medication. This task force will be comprised of representatives from a variety of federal agencies, including the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Drug Enforcement Agency, as well as medical professionals, pharmacists, and experts in the fields of mental health, addiction, and pain management, a person in recovery from addiction to medication for chronic pain and a person suffering from chronic pain. The task force will bring together an unprecedented group of experts and stakeholders to ensure that our prescribing and pain management practices are effective, safe, and up to date.

Our veterans have been hit particularly hard by this epidemic, where the injuries sustained from military service leave them at high risk for addiction to pain killers. Approximately 68,000 veterans struggle with opioid abuse and are twice as likely to die from an accidental overdose as non-veterans. That is why it is so critical that our veterans have a voice on the Inter-Agency Pain Management Task Force to ensure that the unique challenges our veterans face are part of the conversation. My amendment to this legislation, which was adopted unanimously, would add a veteran representative to the Task Force.

H.R. 5046 — Comprehensive Opioid Abuse Reduction Act of 2016

H.R. 5046, the Comprehensive Opioid Abuse Reduction Act, gives the Department of Justice the authority to issue grants to states, municipalities, and law enforcement agencies for the development and expansion of critical substance abuse programs. This includes treatment alternatives to incarceration programs that have been spearheaded by community leaders such as Gloucester’s Police Chief Leonard Campanello. These new grants will also help fund veterans and drug courts, as well as programs that train medical and law enforcement professionals in the administration of lifesaving opioid overdose reversal medications. I voted in support of this legislation, which passed the House with broad bipartisan support, 413–5.

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