Congress needs to continue fighting the opioid epidemic
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Life expectancy has declined three straight years for the first time in 100 years in this country.  Americans are dying sooner than their parents’ generation, and you can blame the opioid epidemic.

Since the mid-1990s, we’ve seen opioids invade and destroy families and communities across America. With no regard to demographics, the opioid crisis has ruthlessly swept through our nation targeting anyone in its path.

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The numbers are staggering. 192 people die every day from a drug overdose and more than 70,000 people died last year alone. More Americans have now died in just one year from a drug overdose than from the wars in Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq combined.

Every death from addiction connects another family and community to this crisis. My own connection is devastating but will sound all too familiar to so many. On New Year’s Eve in 2016, my nephew Ian Trone died from a fentanyl overdose. He was 24 years old, and he died alone in a hotel room.

One of my first actions as a representative was creating the Freshmen Working Group on Addiction. I knew that our historic freshman class could make real progress if we worked together -- across party, geographic, and demographic lines. It’s bipartisan – with 63 members from 31 states across the country. Despite our diverse backgrounds and viewpoints, we are united in our understanding of the necessity to put aside our differences and come together to save lives. And we’ve already made a real impact.

Reps. Dan CrenshawDaniel CrenshawThe absurdity of President Trump picking the Democratic nominee Missouri Republican wins annual craft brewing competition for lawmakers Can Carl DeMaio save the California GOP? MORE (R-Texas) and Susan WildSusan WildThe Hill's Morning Report - Congress returns: What to expect Hopes dim for passage of Trump trade deal Overnight Health Care — Sponsored by Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids — Senate panel advances bipartisan package on health costs | Grassley, Wyden in talks on deal to limit drug price increases | Court asks if blue states have standing in ObamaCare suit MORE (D-Pa.) traveled with me to Johns Hopkins to see the latest research on addiction. Rep. Max RoseMax RoseThe Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by USAA — Ex-Ukraine ambassador testifies Trump pushed for her ouster Dem lawmaker rips O'Rourke: 'I don't think losing is cool' Hillicon Valley: Zuckerberg to testify on Libra | Extremists find home on Telegram app | Warren blasts Facebook for not removing anti-Biden ad | California outlaws facial recognition in police body cameras | China rips US tech sanctions MORE’s (D-N.Y.) Fentanyl Sanctions Act would put pressure on the Chinese to honor their commitment to stop the illicit manufacture and sale of synthetic opioids like fentanyl. Rep. Chris PappasChristopher (Chris) Charles PappasPelosi-backed group funding ads for vulnerable Democrats amid impeachment inquiry Lawmakers beat reporters in annual spelling bee competition The Hill's Morning Report - US coastline readies for Hurricane Dorian to make landfall MORE (D-N.H.) introduced bipartisan legislation that would increase protections for first responders on the front lines of the epidemic. Rep. Jennifer WextonJennifer Lynn WextonCarson defends transgender comments, hits media for 'mischaracterizations' Ben Carson's remarks during San Francisco visit spark backlash Democrats blast HUD for removing LGBT language from grant competition MORE (D-Va.) is leading the charge to expand opioid addiction research. And I worked with fellow freshmen Reps. Denver RigglemanDenver RigglemanLiberty University official to launch primary challenge to GOP's Riggleman Virginia county GOP censures Rep. Riggleman, sparking sharp response House Democrats targeting six more Trump districts for 2020 MORE (R-Va.),  Kelly Armstrong (R-S.D.), and Mikie SherrillRebecca (Mikie) Michelle SherrillHouse Dems introduce bill to fight social media disinformation CNN faces backlash for video highlighting white congresswomen as impeachment leaders GOP ratchets up 2020 attacks as impeachment storm grows MORE (D-N.J.) to introduce the State Opioid Response (SOR) Grant Authorization Act.

The SOR Grant Authorization Act would authorize $5 billion in funding for State Opioid Response (SOR) Grants and Tribal Opioid Response (TOR) Grants over five years to fight the opioid epidemic in every community across the country. Each state receives at least $4 million through the program, with additional funding provided to the ten states with the highest mortality rates due to drug overdoses.

This bill came from conversations we had with real people in our districts. In the early days of our roles, we toured our districts. We spoke with health departments, hospitals, first responders, elected officials, police officers, incarcerated individuals, mental health professionals, early childhood organizations, and those suffering from addiction. We heard loud and clear that we need additional and consistent funding to end this crisis — funding that allows local communities to provide individualized and specific services to their community. And this legislation does just that. It gives certainty to states that we will provide them funding, and they can expect that to continue for at least the next five years.

While the freshman class is taking dramatic action to combat this epidemic, there are many other champions fighting alongside us. Reps. Annie Kuster (D-N.H.), Hal RogersHarold (Hal) Dallas RogersTrump says he'll decide on foreign aid cuts within a week Pelosi warns Mnuchin to stop 'illegal' .3B cut to foreign aid Appropriators warn White House against clawing back foreign aid MORE (R-Ky.), Susan BrooksSusan Wiant BrooksHere are the lawmakers who aren't seeking reelection in 2020 Pelosi: GOP retirements indicate they'll be in the minority, with Democrat in the White House The Hill's 12:30 Report: House panel approves impeachment powers MORE (R-Ind.), Buddy CarterEarl (Buddy) Leroy CarterMass shootings have hit 158 House districts so far this year Polling director: Young voters swayed by health care, economy, gun control The Hill's Morning Report - Can Trump save GOP in North Carolina special election? MORE (R-Ga.), and Lacy ClayWilliam (Lacy) Lacy ClayThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by National Association of Manufacturers - Trump defends Ukraine motives while attacking Biden Democrats rally behind incumbents as Lipinski takes liberal fire House Democrats blur lines on support for impeachment MORE (D-Mo.) have been relentless in the fight against heroin and prescription drug abuse.

While Congress has absolutely started to respond to this crisis, the worst possible outcome would be for Congress to assume it has “checked the box” on the issue. When we don’t act, we lose 192 lives a day and billions of dollars a year. According to the CDC, every year the opioid epidemic costs our nation $78.5 billion in health care, lost productivity, addiction treatment, and interactions with the criminal justice system.[i]

So, we need to keep acting. We need to hold hearings to investigate what’s been done so far and how effective it’s been. We need to pass legislation like the State Opioid Response Grant Authorization Act to continue to provide funding for years to come to address the needs of our communities. We need to tackle this crisis from all angles: prevention, treatment, recovery, mental health, and interdiction, to look at how we can achieve a robust response that’s appropriate for every community in our nation.

We need to treat addiction like the crisis that it is. And we need to do it now.

For more information about the Freshmen Working Group on Addiction, visit www.endtheaddictioncrisis.com.

Trone represents Maryland’s 6th District.