Morris Herald News: 'Combating opioid epidemic with life saving law'

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Washington, November 10, 2016 | Maura Gillespie ((202) 225-3635) | comments

In September, I read a story out of Peru, Illinois about a man who was found unresponsive in his home, where children were present.  The officers administered Narcan and saved the man’s life.  But sadly, the outcome for this man is not the outcome for many.  As a community, we must work together to combat the drug and opioid epidemic that is taking the lives of nearly 30,000 people every year.

Whether you witness it firsthand or not, this crisis is taking a life every 18 minutes and has significant impacts on our community, and communities across the country.  Images of adults passed out in their vehicles with young children in the backseat have made headlines and shocked the public, but we must remember that these people are fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, friends. The visual of the epidemic strikes a chord and it requires action because beyond those caught up in addiction, there are families and friends suffering as well.  In many cases, it is those individuals who are looking for ways to help their loved ones. 

In Illinois, the number of heroin or opiate related overdoses has nearly doubled since 2010.  In Will County, the number of overdoses in 2015 was double those in 2010.  The current number of overdoses for 2016 is on track to surpass those in 2015, and it’s a similar story for many communities across the country.  This is truly an epidemic – a health crisis in America.

In response to this, I was proud to play a role in negotiating a federal response to the opioid and drug abuse problem.  What we were able to accomplish on a bipartisan level culminated in the formation of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), which puts in place federal, state, and most importantly, local coordination among healthcare professionals, law enforcement, and others who are on the front lines, in order to start saving lives. 

At the end of September, I joined my colleagues in the House in passing legislation that will fund the CARA legislation and kick start these programs throughout the country.  It’s a crucial first step in winning this battle.

In order to combat the opioid epidemic, actively implementing CARA is increasingly important.  We need to foster programs that better equip our medical professionals on how to treat overdoses and opioid addiction as well as increase our first responders within communities nationwide. 

Included in the CARA legislation is language from a bill that I specifically drafted to address this first responder shortage.  The intent of this language is to streamline the process by which military trained EMTs can use their skills and knowledge to more easily transition into civilian medical roles.  This is good for our veterans in finding jobs, and it’s good for our communities to have more first-responders that are ready and willing to stand on the front lines of the overdose epidemic.

Together, we will remove the stigma of addiction while doing everything in our power to combat the opioid epidemic.  Together, we will save lives.

To view the original article published in the Morris Herald-News, please visit their website here: http://www.morrisherald-news.com/2016/11/08/combating-opioid-epidemic-with-life-saving-law/a8zbdjf/
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