Hearing Testimony Shows More Funding is Required to Address Opioid Crisis
WASHINGTON – TODAY, the Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education Subcommittee (ECESE) and the Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Development (HEWD) held a joint subcommittee hearing on how opioids are impacting communities across the nation. In 2015, more than 33,000 Americans died of an opioid overdose, and more than 2 million individuals had a prescription opioid use disorder. Congress must address a crisis of this magnitude – and treatment alone is not enough to stem the epidemic.
“The opioid crisis is one that cuts across state lines and affects each of our communities. I’m thankful we were able to get the discussion going today, and hope we can continue it and weigh all available treatment options,” said Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education Subcommittee Ranking Member Jared Polis (CO-02). “It’s time we finally walk the walk, and address this crisis by providing resources to effective programs, as well as local programs that are built on science and medicine, not stigma or misperceptions.”
It is vital that Congress invest in the systems and programs that support healthy families and communities. This means a strong, skilled workforce. As we have seen with past drug epidemics that have rocked our communities, the opioid epidemic has a direct link to jobs.
“We know that when adults, particularly women, aren’t working, it has significant impacts on the economic security of families and communities beyond just the immediate loss of income,” said Higher Education and Workforce Development Subcommittee Ranking Member Susan Davis (CA-53). “Practically, this means we must help individuals remain employed and break down barriers to individuals with substance use disorders re-entering the workforce.”
In order to fight the opioid crisis, Congress must use evidence-based, proven public health methods spanning the entire spectrum of services for all communities. And robust federal funding must be a priority. Even Republican witness, Dr. David Cox Superintendent of Allegany County, Md. Public Schools, agreed at the hearing that more funding is required to address the opioid crisis.
“There are some who say the opioid problem is too big and too complicated—that it cannot be solved. It is true that treating the opioid epidemic requires many approaches,” said Dr. Leana Wen, Baltimore City Health Commissioner. “However, this is a problem with a solution—if only we have the will and commit the resources.”
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) and Medicaid are critical to addressing the opioid crisis. There are 1.6 million people with substance abuse disorders who now have access to treatment through Medicaid expansion. An estimated 2.8 million people with substance abuse disorders – including 220,000 people with opioid disorders – could lose health coverage if Congressional Republicans move forward with their attempts to repeal the ACA.
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