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Posted on Mar 30, 2018

Congress, president join in effort on opioid abuse: Column

By Rep. Dan Newhouse

Joining together to combat the crisis of drug and opioid abuse that is harming our communities is a major issue that should unite Americans in common cause. The impact of drug addiction and overdoses has touched too many lives in our country and in our state.
According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, in 2014, 1.9 million Americans had a substance use disorder involving prescription pain relievers, in contrast to the 586,000 Americans that had a substance use disorder involving heroin. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has estimated that 115 Americans lose their lives every day in connection with opioids. Drug-caused deaths involving opioids have been rising steadily statewide and in Central Washington, with 6,668 deaths from 2002 to 2013, according to the University of Washington. In Yakima County, according to UW, from 2002 to 2013, publicly funded treatment admissions for Yakima County increased by over 50 percent.
These are stark numbers. There is no question that opioid abuse is a national crisis for American families.
Steps are being taken to implement a national strategy to respond to this epidemic. Addressing the scourge of drug and opioid abuse has been an area of bipartisan work in Congress and a strong focus of President Trump. This is a critical matter for bipartisan representatives in Congress to partner with the president.
In 2016, I voted in favor of the bipartisan 21st Century CURES Act, which increased state grants for treatment from $500 million to $1.5 billion. Half of those grants were made available in 2017, and the next half in 2018. Last week, the House Energy and Commerce Committee held investigative and legislative hearings on 25 solutions focused on law enforcement, prevention and insurance coverage.
Earlier this month, President Trump announced his initiative to stop opioid abuse and reduce drug supply and demand. Not only will the administration work to raise public awareness about the dangers of prescription and illicit opioid use, but it will work to implement a safer prescribing plan with the following goals:
• Cut nationwide opioid prescription fills by one-third within three years.
• Ensure that 75 percent of opioid prescriptions reimbursed by federal health care programs are issued using best practices within three years, and 95 percent within five years.
• Ensure that at least half of all federally employed health care providers adopt best practices for opioid prescribing within two years, with all of them doing so within five years.
• Leverage federal funding opportunities related to opioids to ensure that states transition to a nationally interoperable Prescription Drug Monitoring Program network.
The announcement of a national strategy by the administration is a major important step forward. I support President Trump’s initiative to address the opioid crisis. This is about helping struggling Americans, and I will continue to work to so that affected individuals, families and communities receive the help they need.

Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Wash., represents Washington’s 4th District in the U.S. House of Representatives. To send an email to Rep. Newhouse, go to https://newhouse.house.gov/contact.