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Congressman John Larson

Representing the 1st District of Connecticut

Fighting the Heroin and Opioid Epidemic

Fighting the Heroin and Opioid Epidemic

Our nation is in the throes of an epidemic. Since 2000, the rate of deaths from heroin and opioid abuse across the nation has nearly quadrupled. In Connecticut, deaths from heroin overdoses have increased 27% from 2014 to 2015 and last year of the over 700 people died from drug overdoses, more than 400 of those deaths were the result of heroin alone.

Clearly the time has come to take action.

Rep. Larson listens to constituents at a forum in East Hartford.
Rep. Larson listens to constituents at a forum on opioid in East Hartford.

I am proud to support my friend and colleague Rep. Joe Courtney in his proposal to provide immediate, emergency funding to existing treatment and prevention programs. No one who wants help overcoming their addiction should ever be turned away due to lack of resources. I also support the President’s budget request asking for $1.1 billion to find long-term solutions to this crisis—but it could be months before Congress even considers this funding. Americans need help now.

Heroin and opioid addiction transcends race, age, gender, socioeconomic standing, or background. It affects our rural communities, our suburbs, and our cities. Many who struggle with heroin addiction first wrestled with an addiction to prescription pain medications—in some cases the result of a surgery or chronic condition. Addiction can affect anyone, but those in the midst of this battle often face significant stigma.

I recently held a film screening and forum in East Hartford about the heroin epidemic in New England. I heard firsthand as mothers recounted the isolation they felt as a result of their children’s addiction. If their children suffered from any other disease, their families would have the support of the whole community. Instead, many are ostracized and forced to face the difficult task of recovery on their own.

Rep. Larson speaks at a Ways & Means Committee hearing.
Click to see Rep. Larson’s remarks to Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell
of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

I know there is a better way. We can treat individuals battling addiction with compassion, and we can turn to science to find new ways to tackle this crisis.

That is why I cosponsored Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner Comprehensive Addiction Recovery Act (CARA). As the title suggests, this bill takes a broad approach to addressing this crisis. It helps develops the best methods for healthcare providers to prescribe pain medications, assists law enforcement with training in the use of naloxone, improves current treatment centers, and  provides funds to build additional facilities for those seeking treatment for their addiction—especially veterans and pregnant women.

As grave as this crisis is, Congress can reach a solution. There is hope. The health and safety of Americans is neither a Democratic nor Republican issue. There is broad, bipartisan support for addressing this epidemic, and I will continue working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to make sure no one else loses their life or a loved one to addiction.

 

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