House leaders explore solutions to opioid epidemic in White House listening session

U.S. Reps. Susan Brooks (R-IN), Larry Bucshon (R-IN) and John Katko (R-NY) took part in a White House listening session on Tuesday that focused on legislative approaches to curb the opioid and synthetic drug epidemic.

The discussion was organized through the newly established President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, the chairman of the commission, hosted the discussion.

“I am passionate about finding more treatment options and offering better continuum of care for people struggling with substance abuse, and I will continue to work with the administration and my colleagues to put an end to this deadly epidemic,” Brooks, a member of the Congressional Addiction, Treatment and Recovery Caucus, said.

Sales of prescription opioids have quadrupled since 1999, Brooks said, and the number of prescription opioid overdoses also quadrupled over that time span.

“This is not a coincidence, and it’s why we must address the over-prescription of pain medication, stem the flow of heroin and fentanyl into our communities, improve treatment options for people struggling with substance abuse and give our law enforcement and medical professionals the tools they need on the front lines of this crisis,” Brooks said.

During Tuesday’s listening session, Bucshon highlighted the importance of building on comprehensive addiction treatment, exploring the development and approval of non-opioid alternatives, and pursuing reforms that balance pain management and addiction prevention.

“We are facing an epidemic that reaches every corner of this country,” Bucshon said. “If left unchecked, it will continue to devastate communities and families across the nation. President Trump has recognized the importance of solving the opioid crisis by creating this commission. I’m honored to have been able to share with Gov. Christie my experience as a physician and the experiences of my constituents who are on the front lines of this fight.”

Bucshon authored a provision of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) that expanded access to medication-assisted opioid addiction treatment. The measure was signed into law last year and Bucshon led a bipartisan letter calling for the Department of Health and Human Services to fully implement the law earlier this month.

Katko, who authored provisions of CARA that expand the ability of federal prosecutors to prosecute international drug traffickers and ban chemicals used to make synthetic drugs, said he’s heard stories of addiction from many families in Central New York.

“Today, I had the opportunity to share these stories and to highlight to the administration the dire need to act,” Katko said. “At home in Central New York and in Congress, I’ve prioritized combating the heroin and synthetic drug epidemic plaguing our community.”

Tuesday’s meeting follows an announcement that the Department of Health and Human Services will provide $485 million in grants to states to combat the growing opioid crisis.

“I applaud the administration for working to address this critical issue and will continue to fight for reforms to bolster support for our law enforcement, improve prevention, treatment and education efforts, and ensure that everyone who seeks treatment is able to receive it,” Katko said.