Those touched by the opioid epidemic deserve results, not the president's hollow words
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Last week, President Trump attended a briefing on the ongoing opioid epidemic that is ravaging communities across the country. Instead of announcing new policy initiatives, President Trump advocated for many of the failed policies we have seen in the past that will do nothing to help the millions of Americans and their families who are currently suffering from substance abuse.

Then, just a day after Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom PriceThomas (Tom) Edmunds PriceBudget chairman Womack eyes appropriations switch Dems target Trump administration's use of military planes in defense bill debate House Dems call for a vote on ObamaCare stabilization bill MORE said that declaring the opioid epidemic a national emergency was unnecessary, President Trump said he is now open to this action. We should all be alarmed at this dangerously uncoordinated approach and this administration’s lackadaisical response to the death of thousands of Americans. 

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The opioid epidemic has been a national crisis in this country long before today. In every state, city and town in the United States families and lives have been pulled apart by the devastating effects of addiction, and they need our help. In April of this year, I personally called on President Trump to declare this crisis a national public health emergency.

In 2015, 52,404 Americans died from overdoses; that’s 142 a day. And new data shows that these numbers are actually increasing and this problem is getting worse. These figures are not just numbers. They are men and women, mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, friends and neighbors who are losing their lives to this disease.

We are continually seeing emergency rooms, child care services, law enforcement, judges and morgues overwhelmed and lacking the resources, staff and space to respond effectively and efficiently. The president must move swiftly and formally issue this order and congressional Republicans must appropriate emergency federal funding to the Public Health Emergency Fund so that states and local communities have the flexibility and federal funding they need to properly respond.

But over the course of President Trump’s first 200 days in office, he has instead advocated for a repeal and replace healthcare bill that would cut billions out of Medicaid, one of the number one sources of healthcare for those seeking treatment for addiction. The Affordable Care Act and the extension of Medicaid made it possible for Americans suffering from substance abuse to get quality care. Congressional Republican and President Trump’s efforts to pass TrumpCare would roll back this access, and rip health coverage away from the 2.8 million Americans still suffering from addiction.

President Trump’s empty rhetoric and backwards policy initiatives will not stop this epidemic. We will only stem the tide if we can come together and enact a truly comprehensive approach that includes: prescriber education; increased enforcement, especially when it comes to fentanyl coming into our country from China; increased access to recovery support and overdose reversal; increased access to medication-assisted treatment; improved and modernized prescription drug monitoring programs; and expanded criminal justice initiatives.

The men and women in Ohio, West Virginia, New Hampshire, Kentucky, and throughout the United States who are among the hardest hit need our support. I have grieved with the families who have lost loved ones to this terrible disease. It is a pain that no one should ever be forced to endure. They need to know that people in Washington, D.C. are listening and we will do everything in our power stop this horrible epidemic. They deserve more than President Trump’s hollow words. They deserve results.

Ryan represents Ohio's 13th District and is the Co-Chair of the Addiction Treatment and Recovery Caucus.


The views expressed by this author are their own and are not the views of The Hill.