Rockford Register Star: My View: The time is now to act on opioid crisis
The time is now to act on opioid crisis
By: Adam Kinzinger
Rockford Register Star
October 30, 2017
The opioid crisis in our country isn’t new, but it’s becoming more and more real as the number of overdose deaths skyrocket coast to coast. It becomes even more real when you witness the disastrous and heartbreaking effects of opioid abuse up close and personal.
It becomes most real when you realize this epidemic is rapidly wiping out an entire generation — our friends, family members and neighbors.
Last month, I was leaving church on Sunday and going over to my local gym. As I pulled in to a parking spot, I saw someone I knew standing by a wrecked car, covered in dirt and debris. I walked over and looked in to see the driver slumped over, seemingly passed out, and knew right away he was overdosing.
The EMTs arrived shortly after and administered Narcan, a medication that can block the effects of opioids and reverse an overdose. It was a surreal experience, and jarring to witness the victim — a member of my community _ overdosing on heroin.
It’s happening in Channahon, Illinois and all over the country. More than 64,000 Americans died from drug overdoses in 2016. In LaSalle County, drug overdoses killed 25 people per 100,000 in 2015. LaSalle resident Luke Tomsha knows that he could have been a statistic and has witnessed the waves of this epidemic from the front lines.
Tomsha, a constituent of mine, is a former addict who turned his recovery into a charitable foundation to help children and adults affected by substance abuse. But his insights are invaluable. Last week, he shared his story at our community roundtable and called attention to the reality that even the seemingly unlikely candidates can get hooked on these addictive drugs.
Every day, 91 Americans die from opioid overdose. That number terrifies me — and as well it should. The number of opioid overdoses in this country has quadrupled since 1999 — killing more people than gun homicides and car crashes combined. The CDC reports are staggering and a clear cry for help on a national scale.
As a member on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, I’ve learned a great deal about the many reasons we face this epidemic, but was shocked to learn that Americans consume more opioids than any other country in the world.
From our doctors overprescribing pain medication to patients self-medicating for their mental health disorders, Americans have a serious opioid addiction problem. And it should be treated as such. This is not a moral failing, but an illness that is plaguing our country and requires our help.
We need federal and local government, law enforcement, first responders and healthcare professionals, and our communities to work together in addressing this problem and facilitating the solutions.
Here in Congress, we are working on establishing grants for treatments, increasing resources for research and recovery programs, investigating pill dumping and patient brokers, and legislating to create task forces and increase public awareness.
Last Congress, we passed the Comprehensive Addition and Recovery Act (CARA) and the 21st Century Cures Act — delivering meaningful reforms to combat the epidemic through specific resources for states to bolster relief efforts, provide training programs, and revisit best practices for pain management, among other solutions.
Our committee work includes hearings, investigations, and legislative measures to combat the opioid epidemic from every angle. We will continue that work in the coming weeks and months to deliver on making resources available, implementing policy changes, and finding additional ways to make a difference for those battling addiction.
Without question, this growing crisis demands our attention. In the 16th Congressional District, I’ve seen it firsthand. I’ve visited our outstanding facilities and recovery programs. I know how hard our communities are working to fight this epidemic, raising awareness and hosting forums and holding Drug Take Back Day events. I’m saddened to know we have lost so many to this illness. The heartbreaking stories of overdoses and addiction are tragic, but all too common. We see the images of those suffering from addiction and hear the burdens placed on their loved ones.
Every state in the country is struggling to fight this crisis, and it’s on each one of us to step up and raise awareness, be responsible with medication, learn the signs of addiction, and find more ways to help those in need. While strides are being made, we must do more to combat this drug and opioid overdose crisis. The time is now. This is a national emergency, and it requires all of us to redouble our efforts and work together to save lives.