Op-Ed: Lawmakers can Fight Opioids by Passing SUPPORT Bill
Our communities are only as strong as our weakest link. Right now, there are people in Houston suffering from an addiction to opioids. This creates a ripple effect that impacts their families and friends and their communities overall. As the opioid crisis becomes more urgent and troubling, I am working with Republicans and Democrats in Washington to deliver resources to help combat this public health crisis.
According to the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 3,000 Texans died from overdosing on opioids in 2016. That was an increase of 7.4 percent from the previous year. I refuse to accept these numbers. The United States needs a comprehensive approach to fighting this disease focused on treatment and recovery, prevention, and empowering our hard-working law enforcement officers.
Republicans in Congress put forward dozens of bills over recent weeks in an effort to combat this growing epidemic. A total of 53 bills were combined into one package called the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act. SUPPORT stands for Substance Use-Disorder Prevention that Promotes Opioid Recovery and Treatment. This package of bills, passed with bipartisan support, takes a holistic approach to help those suffering from opioid addiction.
The SUPPORT for Patients and Communities ACT addresses a multitude of issues such as research and education on less addictive pain management, offering more peer support and recovery programs, and empowering the medical community to help fight the growing epidemic. The cornerstones of the bill focus on prevention, treatment and recovery, protecting communities, and fighting fentanyl.
Key provisions include changes to Medicaid and Medicare, such as requiring state Medicaid programs to implement safety controls for patients seeking opioid refills and monitor prescriptions for possible abuse. The SUPPORT ACT also encourages better care coordination among doctors and providers in an attempt to identify people who may be at risk of abuse and get them help more quickly and effectively. The bill also incentivizes doctors to seek alternatives to opioid drugs when helping patients manage their pain. Other components of the bill package include ensuring our law enforcement officers have the tools they need to get drugs off the streets and out of our communities. At the same time, we have tried to ensure access to pain medication for chronic pain sufferers with legitimate needs.
Combatting opioid abuse is something Congress is taking seriously. In addition to this bill, Congress took action earlier this year by inserting nearly $4 billion in funding to combat opioid abuse in the 2018 Omnibus. As the only member of the Appropriations Committee from Southeast Texas, I was proud to help shepherd this bill through Congress. Along with combatting opioid abuse, the Omnibus funded many important initiatives such as flood and storm prevention programs. The funding in the Omnibus will help law enforcement better combat the crime that results from this type of drug addiction, support more treatment programs, and help stop the flow of illegal drugs into the country by funding new and innovative technology at the border and ports.
We are taking important steps in Congress to help solve this growing and troubling epidemic. It’s my hope the Senate will work quickly to pass the SUPPORT Act so it can be signed into law. This will not be the last thing we do, and every little piece helps chip away at this growing threat. I continue to pledge to work with my Republican and Democrat colleagues and those across the aisle to develop solutions to the opioid crisis. I know that by working together we can fight this crisis, get help to those in desperate need, support their family members and caregivers, back law enforcement officers who are on the front lines, and protect the future of our communities.