Kaptur, Kuster, Norcross Lead Call to Speaker Pelosi & Leader Hoyer to Prioritize Policies to Tackle the Opioid Epidemic in the New Congress

January 9, 2019
Press Release
**More than 60 Members of Congress Urge Action to Continue Efforts to Address Opioid Epidemic**

Washington, DC – Today, Representatives Marcy Kaptur (OH-09), Annie Kuster (NH-02), and Donald Norcross (NJ-01) are leading more than sixty of their colleagues in calling on Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer to prioritize policies that will help tackle the opioid epidemic. A recent report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found a dramatic increase in deaths nationally due to synthetic opioids such as fentanyl and increases in overdose deaths in many of the hardest hit states.

 

“Despite previous Congressional efforts to provide more resources to combat the opioid crisis to states and communities across this nation, there is much more to do,” said Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur. “The opioid epidemic must be a top priority for the 116th Congress, as we demonstrate our commitment to innovative solutions and creative resources to counter this complex crisis. To build on local, regional, or state successes, it is vital we prioritize substantial and comprehensive measures and strategies. Democratic Leadership in the House has shown early attention to these matters and we look forward to an aggressive agenda.”

 

“I’m proud of our efforts to support those on the frontlines of the opioid crisis, but our work is not done,” said Congresswoman Annie Kuster. “In the 116th Congress, I’m committed to building on our success and continuing to advance policies that will save lives and rebuild communities. It’s imperative that Speaker Pelosi and Leader Hoyer prioritize this issue and empower the new Congress to take additional action to address the opioid epidemic.”

 

“Over 3,000 people died from overdoses in New Jersey in 2018 – and, sadly, that’s a new record. Every single year we’re losing more Americans to the opioid epidemic than we did in all of the Vietnam War. It’s clear we need to work together, address the many different aspects of this crisis and implement a variety of tactics to help those suffering from the disease of addiction," said Congressman Donald Norcross. “We took positive steps in the last Congress to help our friends and neighbors. Now, we need to build upon those successes and vote to increase mental health and addiction funding because one preventable death is too many.”

 

“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,” wrote the members. “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.”

 

Kuster, Kaptur and Norcross are joined in their call by Representatives Joyce Beatty (OH-3), Marcia Fudge (OH-11), Tim Ryan (OH-13), Brendan Boyle (PA-2), Matt Cartwright (PA-8), Conor Lamb (PA-17), Michael F. Doyle (PA-18), Susan Wild (PA-7), Chrissy Houlahan (PA-6), Madeleine Dean (PA-4), John Yarmuth (KY-3), Ann McLane Kuster (NH-2), Chris Pappas (NH-1), Chellie Pingree (ME-1), Jared Golden (ME-2), Jim McGovern (MA-2), Lori Trahan (MA-3), Ayanna Pressley (MA-4), Seth Moulton (MA-6), Bill Keating (MA-9), Haley Stevens (MI-11), Debbie Dingell (MI-12), Andy Kim (NJ-3), Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5), Tom Malinowski (NJ-7), Albio Sires (NJ-8), Bill Pascrell (NJ-9), Donald Payne Jr. (NJ-10), Mikie Sherrill (NJ-11), Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12), David Price (NC-4), Alma Adams (NC-12), John B. Larson (CT-1), Joe Courtney (CT-2), Jim Himes (CT-4), Lisa Blunt Rochester (DE-At Large), Al Lawson (FL-5), Stephanie Murphy (FL-7), Darren Soto (FL-9), Alcee Hastings (FL-20), Lois Frankel (FL-21), Ted Deutch (FL-22), Debbie Wasserman Shultz (FL-23), Frederica Wilson (FL-24), Andre Carson (IN-7), Tom O'Halleran (AZ-1), Ann Kirkpatrick (AZ-2), Greg Stanton (AZ-4), Ruben Gallego (AZ-7), Dutch Ruppersberger (MD-2), David Trone (MD-6), Jamie Raskin (MD-8), Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC-At Large), David Cicilline (RI-1), James Langevin (RI-2), Jim Cooper(TN-5), Steve Cohen (TN-9), Peter Welch (VT-At Large), Ben McAdams (UT-4).

 

The full text of the letter is available HERE and below:

 

Dear Speaker Pelosi and Leader 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 7 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.

 

Sincerely,

 

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