Blunt Rochester Calls on House Leadership to Commit Additional Resources to Opioid & Addiction Treatment in the 116th Congress

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Washington, January 9, 2019 | Kyle Morse (202-695-0494) | comments

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester (DE-AL) and 63 of her Democratic colleagues sent a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer calling for the Democratic House Majority to commit additional resources to opioid and drug treatment during the 116th Congress. The letter requests that the Majority focus on increasing funds, dedicated staff, and collaborative efforts to address our nation’s widespread addiction crisis. The letter also cites the sharp uptick in opioid and fentanyl-related overdose deaths in Delaware and across the country.

Blunt Rochester, a former Delaware Deputy Secretary for Health and Social Services and member of the House Bipartisan Heroin Task Force, issued the following statement:

“Opioid and drug addiction have had a devastating impact on our urban, suburban, and rural communities across this country. Addiction does not discriminate along racial or socio-economic lines and is affecting families regardless of zip code. That’s why I am calling on House Democratic Leaders to make combatting this public health emergency and delivering on our promises to the American people a top priority next Congress,” said Congresswoman Blunt Rochester. “The human cost of addiction is simply too great not to allocate the necessary resources to stemming the ever-worsening opioid crisis. I have full faith that our Democratic leadership will build on the previous Congress’ bipartisan achievements and continue working toward giving families the tools they need to help their loved ones overcome this disease.”

The text of the letter is below:

Dear Leader Pelosi and Whip Hoyer:

As our Congress enters a transitional period and Democrats re-gain the Majority, we must make our top priorities known to our body of government and to the American people. While Congress passed several bills to increase access to treatment and recovery, improve state prescription drug monitoring programs, increase access to medication assisted treatment, support research efforts, and expand availability of naloxone, many of our states are seeing an increase in overdose death rates.

Recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released the final 2017 data from the National Vital Statistics System regarding mortality that tells a dire story of the tragic human toll of this crisis. Between 2016 and 2017, the age-adjusted rate of drug overdose deaths increased by 9.6%. In 2017, there were 70,237 drug overdose deaths. Of that number, 47,600 were opioid overdose deaths. Also, drug overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids like fentanyl increased by 46% between 2016 and 2017.

While this paints a bleak picture of the nation, several states experienced the brunt of the epidemic. According to the CDC, the following states experienced increases in overdose deaths between 2016 and 2017:

  • Ohio increased from 39.1 deaths per 100,000 to 46.3 deaths per 100,000
  • Pennsylvania increased from 37.9 deaths per 100,000 to 44.3 deaths per 100,000
  • Kentucky increased from 33.5 deaths per 100,000 to 37.1 deaths per 100,000
  • West Virginia increased from 52 deaths per 100,000 to 57.8 deaths per 100,000
  • Maine increased from 28.7 deaths per 100,000 to 34.4 deaths per 100,000
  • Indiana increased from 24 deaths per 100,000 to 29.4 deaths per 100,000
  • Delaware increased from 30.8 deaths per 100,000 to 37 deaths per 100,000

New Hampshire was the only state that experienced a decrease from 39 deaths per 100,000 in 2016 to 37 deaths per 100,000 in 2017, dropping the state out of the top five from 2016.

In 2017, overdose death rates in 24 states surpassed the national average of 21.7 per 100,000. Those states and territories, excluding the seven listed above, include Arizona, Connecticut, Washington, DC, Florida, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Utah, and Vermont.

At a time when our state and local partners are begging for federal assistance to combat the opioid crisis in their communities, Congress must answer the call through increased resources, creative solutions, and with more legislative staff. Dedicated staff across House committees capable of analyzing both the larger federal need and specifics from states and districts is necessary at this point.

People across this country are suffering and need more relief than our local governments can provide. As members from the states impacted by this crisis the most, we see people every day who need our help. We hope that you will take into consideration our proposal to make countering the opioid crisis a top priority for the 116th Congress.

Congresswoman Blunt Rochester is a member of the Bipartisan Heroin Task Force and a cosponsor of the 115th Congress’ bipartisan package of legislation aimed to stymie this crisis. The legislative package includes initiatives that would expand access under Medicaid for addiction treatment services, arm U.S. Customs and Border Protection with new tools to combat drug trafficking, give families the flexibility to use their Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs) or Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) for addiction treatment, and establish pediatric care centers within Medicaid for the treatment of babies with neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) from opioid exposure during pregnancy.

To view the letter click here.


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