Nearly 3,000 Texans died of an opioid overdose in 2016. The opioid crisis is wreaking havoc on families and communities all across America. Hundreds of thousands of American lives have been cut short by prescription drug abuse. That is why I’ve made combating this crisis a top priority.
After months of bipartisan dedication, Congress recently passed bipartisan legislation to combat the opioid crisis. H.R. 6, the Substance Use-Disorder Prevention that Promotes Opioid Recovery and Treatment (SUPPORT) for Patients and Communities Act, is a bipartisan win that will help in our efforts to combat the opioid crisis. This important legislation will advance treatment and recovery initiatives, improve prevention, protect our communities, and bolster our efforts to fight deadly illicit synthetic drugs like fentanyl.
During the August district work period, I asked to meet with a group of Fort Worth firefighters. They wanted to discuss the tragic, ongoing opioid epidemic. The drug epidemic has greatly increased the number of calls they make each month and the dangers they face on each visit. Like our police, the firefighters place themselves in danger with every encounter they face when the call puts them face to face with someone coming out of self-induced drug overdose. Opioids may be the worst illegal drug issue we have faced yet.
The legislation the House passed last week will help these firefighters and others fight the opioid crisis by creating better prescription guidelines for medical professionals. It will protect seniors from opioid dependence and overuse, as well as improve access to non-addictive pain medication and treatment. The legislation cracks down on illicit foreign drug producers who use international mail to ship dangerous synthetic drugs into the United States and ensures that mental health professionals have the latest technology to better serve patients and expands access to treatments in small towns and rural communities. H.R. 6 also makes it easier for doctors, advocates, and local governments on the front lines of the opioid crisis to receive federal resources and gives patients access to a wider range of treatment options so that they can receive tailored care suited to their specific needs.
Congress has also acted to provide sufficient resources in the battle against opioids. For example, in the latest round of government funding, we included nearly $7 billion to tackle this scourge on our country. This includes $5.7 billion for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, a $584 million increase. This will fund activities authorized under the 21st Century Cures Act and other addiction and recovery programs. The legislation also provides increases for State opioid response grants and criminal justice programs such as drug courts.
October is National Substance Abuse Prevention Month. During this time, we recognize the importance of ending and preventing substance abuse. This is important because our community must remain vigilant in raising awareness about the harms posed by drugs of all kinds and their high potential for addiction. Just last week, for example, the sheriff of Wise County came to see me to talk about how high the methamphetamine usage was. I told him I would work to allow funds to be used for both, as well as for other substance abuse issues.
Our country is reeling from the enormity of an opioid epidemic that has resulted in huge numbers of overdose fatalities, an influx of children in foster care, and too many families forever changed by the addiction or death of a loved one. The legislation that President Trump will soon sign will help save lives and change communities for the better.
Through our united advocacy and awareness efforts on the horrific dangers of substance abuse, we can cultivate a society focused on health, wellness, and prosperity.
Member of Congress