Thursday, May 12, 2016

Statement of the Honorable John Conyers, Jr. in Support of H.R. 5046, the “Comprehensive Opioid Abuse Reduction Act of 2016”


I am pleased to rise in support of H.R. 5046, the “Comprehensive Opioid Abuse Reduction Act of 2016.” H.R. 5046 is an important complement to a wide-range of legislation being considered in the House this week that is aimed at combating the devastating impact of drug abuse and addiction that is afflicting communities across our Nation.  

We are in the midst of a major public health crisis caused by prescription and opioid abuse.  It is a crisis that affects Americans of all ages, races, and income levels in our cities, suburbs, and rural areas across the United States. 

Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of death in our Nation. In my state of Michigan, for example, there were 1,745 drug overdose deaths in 2014.  And, more than half of those overdose deaths were attributed to opioids and heroin.

In fact, 78 Americans die from an opioid overdose every day. I am very familiar with the devastation heroin can exact over people and their communities.

Heroin took a deadly toll on Detroit in the 1970’s and is now threatening to take hold of a new generation of addicts.  Armed with lessons learned from that era and the crack epidemic of the 1980’s, we are wiser and more capable. This time, we can and must do more to respond to this crisis.

Fortunately, a number of states have undertaken various innovative measures to better respond to the rapid increase of individuals addicted to prescription opioids and heroin and to prevent individuals from dying as a result of drug overdose.

For instance, the Judiciary Committee’s Crime Subcommittee held a hearing last year that examined, among other things, the promising use of the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion approach employed in cities such as Seattle and Santa Fe.

We have learned that there are successful ways to get addicts to treatment and to provide them with needed services quickly that help to address their addiction and prevent recidivism. 

And, we know that evidence-based treatment and treatment alternatives to incarceration work.

The Comprehensive Opioid Addiction Recovery Program, as authorized by H.R. 5046, would establish a competitive grant program to provide funds to state and local governments to continue and improve their efforts to protect Americans from the dangers of opioid and heroin abuse and to make sure that addicts have access to the services that are provided.

Funds from the new grant program could be used for the following purposes:

·         Treatment alternatives to incarceration.

·         Collaboration between state criminal justice agencies and state substance abuse systems.

·         For first responders to purchase and be trained in using Naloxone.

·         Medication assisted treatment programs by criminal justice agencies.

·         Investigating the illegal distribution of opioids.

·         Prescription drug monitoring programs.

·         Addressing juvenile opioid abuse.

·         And for comprehensive opioid abuse response programs. 

Our communities need our assistance in meeting the threat of opioid abuse, and this bill will fund innovative approaches to the problem, such as the LEAD program developed in Seattle that I mentioned earlier.  

H.R. 5046 would go a long ways toward providing that critical help.

Accordingly, I support this bill and I reserve the balance of my time.

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