Portman calls for House passage of bill aiming to curb nation’s opioid epidemic

U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) called for House support of his legislation to address the nation’s heroin epidemic during a committee hearing and on the Senate floor on Wednesday.

The Senate Homeland Security Committee held a hearing on Portman’s Comprehensive Addiction Recovery Act (CARA), S. 524, which would help heroin addicts find treatment and devote federal resources to education and prevention efforts.

Portman told committee members that when he talks to prosecutors from Ohio, 80 percent of the crimes they see are related to opioid addiction.

“Ultimately, we’re not going to solve it until we get to the demand side,” Portman said. “It’s like we’ve got a fire right now. We’ve got to put out the fire. That means better treatment, more treatment options, better recovery, evidence-based and helping some of these people whose lives are just being destroyed by this grip of addiction, this really difficult grip of opioids, to get back on their feet.”

Dr. Cheryl Healton, director of the NYU Global Institute of Public Health, testified before the committee and thanked Portman for his past and continuing work.

“You are to be commended for all the work that you have done,” Helton said. “I’ve been following your career on this issue for decades and thank you for everything you have done because people have to step up to this problem even though the room is empty, and you have been with the problem for a long time.”

Portman also took to the Senate floor on Wednesday to urge House leaders to act on CARA, which has already cleared the Senate by a margin of 94-1.

“Every day, it’s estimated, we lose about 120 Americans to drug overdoses,” Portman said. “That means that we’ve lost more than 3,800 Americans to drug overdoses since the legislation passed the Senate. We can’t wait. We have to move and we have to move quickly on this because it is an epidemic. The experts say that from 2000 to 2014, the rate of overdose deaths doubled, leaving nearly half a million Americans dead from drug overdoses. That’s why we call it an epidemic.”

Since 2007, drug overdoses have killed more Ohioans than car accidents, and Portman said the trend is “not slowing down.”

“We have to move this legislation,” Portman said. “We need to get it to the president’s desk. He will sign it, and it will then begin to make a real difference for the families we represent who are so affected by this epidemic. I yield back.”

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