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 CrenshawO'Rourke says he'll focus on flipping Texas state House in 2020 House GOP criticizes impeachment drive as distracting from national security issues Saagar Enjeti: Crenshaw's conservatism will doom future of GOP MORE (R-Texas) and Susan WildSusan WildThe biggest political upsets of the decade The Hill's Morning Report - Vulnerable Dems are backing Trump impeachment Vulnerable Democrats signal support for impeachment articles this week MORE (D-Pa.) traveled with me to Johns Hopkins to see the latest research on addiction. Rep. Max RoseMax RoseSan Francisco mayor endorses Bloomberg Mixed feelings on war power limits: Lawmakers and vet candidates Rep. Bobby Rush endorses Bloomberg's White House bid 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 PappasNew Hampshire Rep. Kuster endorses Buttigieg Making waves to protect America's waters Norovirus sickened 18 at New Hampshire campaign stop 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 WextonVirginia governor seeking to remove Robert E. Lee statue from US Capitol Virginia lawmakers ask governor to remove state's Robert E. Lee statue from US Capitol Pro-trade group launches media buy as Trump and Democrats near deal on new NAFTA MORE (D-Va.) is leading the charge to expand opioid addiction research. And I worked with fellow freshmen Reps. Denver RigglemanDenver RigglemanTrump endorses Riggleman in Virginia House race Pelosi: Celebrities, politicians both in 'attraction business' Liberty University official to launch primary challenge to GOP's Riggleman MORE (R-Va.),  Kelly Armstrong (R-S.D.), and Mikie SherrillRebecca (Mikie) Michelle SherrillOvernight Defense: Dems raise pressure on Esper to block border wall funds | Trump impeachment trial begins in Senate | Day one dominated by fight over rules House Dems express 'deepening concern' over plans to take .2B from Pentagon for border wall How the 31 Democrats in Trump districts voted on impeachment 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 RogersBottom line Appropriators face crucial weekend to reach deal Trump says he'll decide on foreign aid cuts within a week MORE (R-Ky.), Susan BrooksSusan Wiant BrooksThe rise of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in 2019 Hispanic Democrats endorse Latina for open Indiana seat Trump shocks, earns GOP rebukes with Dingell remarks MORE (R-Ind.), Buddy CarterEarl (Buddy) Leroy CarterRepublicans came to the table on climate this year Republicans storm closed-door hearing to protest impeachment inquiry Mass shootings have hit 158 House districts so far this year MORE (R-Ga.), and Lacy ClayWilliam (Lacy) Lacy ClayLawmakers honor JFK on 56th anniversary of his death Trump tax breaks for low-income neighborhoods draw scrutiny Maloney wins vote for Oversight chairwoman 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.