Every week, I read heartbreaking stories about how the lives of families across the country have been devastated by drug use. A study by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services revealed that about 6.5 million Americans abuse prescription drugs – most being opioid painkillers.
The opiate abuse epidemic in our country has the potential to affect anyone, regardless of race, gender, income, or where you live. Unfortunately, Ohio has not been immune to the issue; drug overdoses are now the number one cause of accidental death in our state. The drug addiction issue needs to be fought all on fronts, from our local communities up to the federal government.
Last week, the House of Representatives took action to address the crisis through a series of bipartisan bills. These bills deal with many different sides of the issue, from how prescriptions are filled to how we educate the community about opiates. In total, the House passed more than 15 bills in a united effort to combat opiate abuse.
One of the bills passed was the Reducing Unused Medications Act, legislation I introduced with Representative Katherine Clark (R-Mass.). Our bill seeks to reduce the number of unused prescription drugs in circulation by allowing pharmacists to partially fill prescriptions at the request of a patient or doctor. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, more than 70 percent of adults who misuse prescription opioids get them from friends or relatives. This bill will allow patients and doctors to determine the appropriate treatment plan, while limiting the amount of unused medication left in medicine cabinets and vulnerable to abuse.
As part of the package of bills, the House also took aim at establishing education programs to prevent drug abuse and empowering law enforcement to better keep the community safe. Specifically, legislation was passed to provide grants for each state to use to combat the drug abuse problems they face. The grants can also be used to make naloxone, a drug that helps in the reversal of drug overdoses to save lives, more available to law enforcement agencies and other first responders in our communities.
While these bills are important, this problem requires coordination between treatment experts, law enforcement, impacted families, and policy makers at all levels of government. That’s why I take time every year to meet with representatives from these groups in the community, so I can better understand how Congress can provide support and pass effective legislation to address opiate addiction. This will not be an issue that is solved overnight, but I am confident that by working together, we can curb the epidemic.
If you have any questions or comments about this or other issues facing our federal government, you can call my office in Washington, D.C. at (202) 225-2015, Hilliard at (614) 771-4968, Lancaster at (740) 654-2654, or Wilmington at (937) 283-7049.
Steve Stivers is a member of Congress from Ohio’s 15th Congressional District.