Our shared challenge
I wanted to take a moment and show you an Op-Ed I wrote alongside my colleague and fellow Co-Chair of the Bipartisan Heroin Task Force, Representative Tom McArthur (R-NJ) for today's Union Leader. In 2016, I started this task force with Rep. Frank Guinta and since then the Heroin Task Force has grown to over 100 members, both Republican and Democrat, who are committed to ending this public health crisis. I am proud of the work we have accomplished and will continue to fight for New Hampshire families struggling with this deadly disease. Please read below for the full article:
|Speaking alongside fellow members of the Bipartisan Heroin Task Force as we release our 2018 legislative agenda.|
At a time of divisiveness in Washington, we’ve been committed to staying focused on real solutions to take on the challenges our communities face. The opioid epidemic has left no state untouched. Whether in New Hampshire or New Jersey, addressing substance use disorder cannot fall victim to partisan politics.
The Bipartisan Heroin Task Force, which we chair together, is a productive group of more than 100 members of Congress both Republican and Democrat that time and time again is able to advance real solutions to this crisis.
As Congress considers additional measures to stem the spread of the opioid crisis, we are committed to building on the progress we’ve made and doing right by people in our states and across the country.
The opioid epidemic is having a devastating impact on both our states. New Hampshire, sadly is number three in the country for overdose death rates per capita.
New Jersey’s opioid overdose death rate is three times the national average. Nobody is immune from the suffering and every community has been impacted. From small rural towns to big cities and suburbs, from well-to-do households to middle-class America, heroin and fentanyl have altered our neighborhoods and left death and destruction in their path. This simply cannot continue.
In 2016, the House of Representatives came together during what we called “Opioid Week” and 14 task force bills were passed and signed into law. In the coming months, Congress will once again consider legislation to support those on the frontlines of the opioid epidemic and we stand ready to lead in this effort.
Earlier in this Congress, we released a legislative agenda that outlines a comprehensive approach to tackling the opioid epidemic. Our measures bolster support for education and prevention, expanding treatment and long-term recovery, as well as law enforcement and interdiction efforts.
Already, we’ve seen action on critical components of our proposal. The INTERDICT Act, signed into law in January, provides enhanced tools to law enforcement to crack down on the flow of synthetic opioids coming into our country from across the border and from overseas.
We also passed and sent to the President’s desk the VA Prescription Data Accountability Act, which will improve prescription drug monitoring programs within the VA. And earlier this year, we led more than 40 of our colleagues to successfully protect the Office of National Drug Control Policy, which was threatened with budget cuts.
In March, we joined with our colleagues, Reps. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., and Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, to introduce CARA 2.0, follow-up legislation to the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act.
CARA 2.0 would authorize an additional $1 billion for the fight against addiction. This is on top of the $6 billion in new funding agreed to earlier this year as part of the Bipartisan Budget Agreement.
But money alone isn’t going to solve this issue, which is why we need to expand innovative programs and promote policy changes that will identify ways to get people the support services they need and to prevent addiction in the first place.
We will continue to work together across party lines to advocate for bills like Jessie’s Law, which would increase doctor’s access to medical history related to addiction when making prescribing decisions; the CRIB Act, which would create residential pediatric centers to treat babies suffering from neonatal abstinence syndrome; and the Veterans Treatment Court Improvement Act, which would help our men and women who have served in uniform access treatment rather than going to prison.
As we pursue legislative solutions to the opioid epidemic, we will continue to educate our colleagues about successful efforts in our own states. Programs like SAFE Stations in New Hampshire and On P.O.I.N.T in New Jersey can serve as models for communities across the country.
This is an all hands-on deck moment, with momentum building to take meaningful action on this crisis. We’re ready to do whatever is necessary and deliver for families everywhere, and urge our colleagues on both sides of the aisle to join us.
Reps. Ann Kuster, D-NH, and Tom MacArthur, R-N.J., co-chair the Bipartisan Heroin Task Force.