Friday, October 12, 2018

Billy Long: Patients and Communities Act shows what Congress can do "when we put politics aside"

(From Seventh District Congressman Billy Long)

Of my 434 colleagues in the House of Representatives, I can’t think of one that won’t try and convince you that their Congressional District has the worst opioid problem in the U.S. We all have horrific stories to relate of friends or family or constituents lost to this scourge.

With such a widespread problem that stretches across all demographics, it’s easy to understand why this is a problem we are addressing on a bipartisan basis, which is extremely rare in today’s Washington, D.C.

One of my proudest accomplishments in Congress was the passage of the 21st Century Cures Act, which passed with a huge bipartisan majority. With 10,000 diseases and only 500 cures, it’s easy to see how we worked across the aisle and achieved a good result as we have with the opioid epidemic too.

Each day, more than 115 people die in the U.S. from this epidemic. And sadly, Missouri is no exception. In 2016 alone, there were 903 opioid-related deaths, which was a 35 percent increase from the previous year. This deadly epidemic has hit every part of the state, including Greene County, which has been one of the hardest hit counties in the state.

Over the past several years, the Energy and Commerce Committee, which I sit on, has been one of the leaders in Congress fighting this issue. The committee has worked on identifying issues and solutions that ultimately led to the passage of more than 60 bills addressing this epidemic. Nearly every bill passed with bipartisan support in the committee.

Just recently, both the House and the Senate passed H.R. 6, the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act, which included the more than 60 bills passed in committee rolled into one. This bill targets five areas: treatment, recovery, prevention, communities and combatting fentanyl, which is 100 times more potent than morphine, which is a widely used opiate.

Specifically, H.R. 6 would offer additional grants to communities to help fight this epidemic by creating recovery centers for those struggling with addiction, increase access to telehealth technologies, which is especially helpful in rural areas like Missouri’s 7th Congressional District, allow the National Institutes of Health to research alternative, non-addictive drugs for pain management as well as authorize additional grants to help local authorities better detect fentanyl and synthetic opioids.

It’s legislation like H.R. 6 that reminds me once again of the great work Congress can accomplish when we put politics aside. I look forward to watching this bill being signed into law by President Trump.

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