Donovan says feds responding to prescription drug epidemic
The federal government is set to take strong and bold action to curb the growing opioid drug epidemic in America, according to U.S. Rep. Dan Donovan, who said the House voted affirmatively on a bill to provide funding for prevention and treatment.
The Comprehensive Opioid Abuse Reduction Act, approved by the House on May 12, would authorize new funding for substance abuse treatment, education and enforcement. The U.S. Senate passed a similar bill in March.
Opioids are prescription pain killers such as Vicodin, OxyContin and Percocet. If not taken properly, they can be addictive, according to medical experts. Health care experts also warn that many patients who become addicted to opioids and who then have trouble getting their hands on the pills often turn to heroin.
The number of heroin-related deaths in the U.S. has quadrupled since 2002, Donovan said. In New York City, nearly 797 people died from unintentional overdoses in 2014, according to the congressman, who said 57 percent of those cases involved heroin.
Donovan (R-C-Southwest Brooklyn-Staten Island) held a press conference on Staten Island on May 9 to urge support for the legislation. He was surrounded by fellow elected officials, like Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis (R-C-Bay Ridge-Staten Island) and anti-substance abuse activists.
“Pills and heroin are claiming a generation before our eyes, and it’s about time we got the resources to fight back,” Donovan said. “Because of this legislation, new grant programs will fund increased treatment, education and enforcement efforts.”
Malliotakis, who called opioid abuse a “terrible epidemic,” said the federal government’s response is important.
“As our community’s battle against opioid addiction intensifies, we need every tool in the toolbox at our disposal. This initiative will bring funding to our community to expand treatment, support law enforcement programs and expand prescription drug monitoring,” she said.
Donovan said that in order for the country to begin to combat the epidemic successfully, it must focus on three areas: education, treatment and enforcement.
The Comprehensive Opioid Abuse Reduction Act would make $103 million in new grants available to cities and non-profit providers to: prevent opioid abuse by juveniles; expand opioid treatment programs; establish and expand drug courts; support investigations into opioid distributers; equip first responders with overdose medications like Naloxone; and expand prescription drug monitoring programs.
“This crisis has exploded to affect families of every race, socioeconomic status and neighborhood. We’re directing resources towards programs and policies that have been effective, and we’ll continue to evaluate what’s working and what’s not. Gradually, working together, we can beat back this scourge,” Donovan said.
After the House passes the legislation, the House and Senate will enter a conference committee to resolve any differences and then send the bill to President Barack Obama’s desk for his signature.
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