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ICYMI: Portman: House must go further on heroin

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Earlier this week in an op-ed, Rob Portman urged the U.S. House of Representatives to take a comprehensive approach when it comes to tackling the prescription drug and heroin epidemic. Specifically, Rob expressed concern that current legislation before the House does not include initiatives focused on treatment and recovery - both of which are included in Rob's bipartisan Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), which passed the U.S. Senate earlier this year by a vote of 94-1. The Portman for Senate campaign has released three web ads, "Tyler," "There is Hope," and "Addicted," to spread Rob's message and efforts in the fight to combat the drug epidemic gripping families across Ohio. You may click HERE or scroll down to read Rob's op-ed in its entirety.

Portman: House must go further on heroin
Cincinnati Enquirer
May 10, 2016

Every 12 minutes an American dies of a drug overdose, and, tragically, the problem is only getting worse. Drug overdose death rates have tripled nationally since 1990. We’re told that heroin-related deaths more than tripled between 2010 and 2014, with more than 10,500 heroin deaths in 2014.

And this is hitting Ohio particularly hard. Five Ohioans lose their lives to drug overdoses every day. Since 2007, drug overdoses have killed more Ohioans than have car accidents – the first time in history that this has ever happened.

Dr. Lakshmi Sammarco, the Hamilton County coroner, says drug overdose deaths in Hamilton County increased by 40 percent just from 2014 to 2015, with heroin overdoses increasing 12 percent and overdose deaths from fentanyl – an opioid even more potent than heroin – increasing a staggering 153 percent, to the point that fentanyl overdose deaths now outnumber heroin overdose deaths in Cincinnati.

I’ve seen the consequences firsthand as I’ve traveled the state. Last week I conducted one of my regular teletownhalls in Northeast Ohio, calling 25,000 people to listen to what was important to them. One man called to talk about the importance of access to treatment for those struggling with addiction. He and his wife had finally convinced their daughter to seek treatment for heroin addiction, but there was a 14-day waiting list, and she died of an overdose during those two weeks.

The status quo just isn’t working. According to one poll, nearly half of the public knows someone who has been addicted to prescription painkillers, and two-thirds want federal government to do more about this problem.That should never happen.

I agree with them. That’s why I’ve been taking action in the U.S. Senate, co-authoring the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, or CARA, a bill the Senate passed 94-1 in March.

I crafted the bill with Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island over the course of three years of fact-finding. It has been endorsed by more than 130 national groups, including associations representing prevention and treatment experts, and the Fraternal Order of Police.

The bill is comprehensive. It addresses every aspect of the problem from prevention to treatment to recovery. CARA expands the availability of naloxone – a miracle drug that can actually reverse the effects of an overdose – to law enforcement agencies and first responders. Ohio public safety officials administered naloxone more than 16,000 times in 2015, saving thousands of lives. But, more than just stopping overdoses, CARA also gives our communities the tools to get people into treatment and longer-term recovery.

CARA also increases drug disposal sites to keep medications out of the hands of our young people. It supports drug courts and prison programs to treat prisoners who are addicted so that they don’t wind up back in jail again for drugs or committing crimes to get drugs. It will expand Medication Assisted Treatment, which has been shown to be effective.

Unfortunately, we’ve had a 750 percent increase over the last 12 years in the number of babies born in Ohio with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome – babies born addicted to opioids. CARA expands treatment for pregnant women who struggle with addiction and provides support for these babies, some of whom I’ve seen firsthand at Children’s Hospital.

Since the Senate passed CARA on March 10, I’ve been urging the House to pass it, too, so President Obama can sign it into law and it help the 23 million Americans struggling with drug addiction.

This week, the House is scheduled to consider more than a dozen targeted opioid-related bills. That is good. But more than 70 anti-drug groups have publicly expressed concern that these House bills omit critical initiatives focused on treatment and recovery that are part of CARA.

I have gone to the Senate floor for four consecutive weeks to bring attention to this bill, and to the need for our response to be comprehensive.

I’m hopeful that we can reach an agreement with the House soon – but that agreement must be comprehensive. I will insist on it. Once we do that, then we can held to turn the tide in the fight against this national epidemic.

U.S. Sen. Rob Portman is a Republican from Terrace Park.

Link: http://www.cincinnati.com/story/opinion/contributors/2016/05/10/portman-house-must-go-further-heroin/84134090/

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