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 CrenshawWhat to us is the Fourth of July? Ocasio-Cortez builds political army, and a fundraising machine to match GOP lawmakers call for new sanctions on senior Chinese officials MORE (R-Texas) and Susan WildSusan WildThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Trump, GOP on defense as nationwide protests continue Republican Lisa Scheller wins primary to take on Pennsylvania Rep. Susan Wild Key races to watch in Tuesday's primaries MORE (D-Pa.) traveled with me to Johns Hopkins to see the latest research on addiction. Rep. Max RoseMax RoseAlarm grows over Americans stranded in Yemen amid pandemic Moderate House Democrats introduce bill aimed at stopping China from exploiting coronavirus pandemic Republican Nicole Malliotakis wins New York primary to challenge Max Rose 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 PappasTrade groups make lobbying push to be included in small business loan program Expanding tax credit for businesses retaining workers gains bipartisan support The Hill's Campaign Report: Buzz builds around Warren for VP 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 WextonOVERNIGHT ENERGY: House approves .5T green infrastructure plan | Rubio looks to defense bill to block offshore drilling, but some fear it creates a loophole | DC-area lawmakers push for analysis before federal agencies can be relocated D.C.-area lawmakers push for analysis before federal agencies can be relocated Democrats rip Trump rollback of LGBTQ protections amid Pride Month MORE (D-Va.) is leading the charge to expand opioid addiction research. And I worked with fellow freshmen Reps. Denver RigglemanDenver RigglemanOn The Trail: Trump, coronavirus fuel unprecedented voter enthusiasm House Republicans urge White House to support TSA giving travelers temperature checks Colorado GOP Rep. Scott Tipton defeated in primary upset MORE (R-Va.),  Kelly Armstrong (R-S.D.), and Mikie SherrillRebecca (Mikie) Michelle SherrillThe Hill's Morning Report - Republicans shift, urge people to wear masks Gun control group rolls out House endorsements Bipartisan Senate group offers new help to state, local governments 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 RogersDemocrats take aim at Trump's policies on 2021 funding markups Bottom line Appropriators face crucial weekend to reach deal MORE (R-Ky.), Susan BrooksSusan Wiant BrooksDemocrat Christina Hale and Republican Victoria Spartz to face off in House race in Indiana Key races to watch in Tuesday's primaries The Hill's Campaign Report: More Republican women are running for House seats MORE (R-Ind.), Buddy CarterEarl (Buddy) Leroy CarterHouse fires back at Trump by passing ObamaCare expansion Loeffler works to gain traction with conservatives amid Collins primary bid Republicans came to the table on climate this year MORE (R-Ga.), and Lacy ClayWilliam (Lacy) Lacy ClayGOP House candidate publishes 23-page report claiming George Floyd death was deepfake video Calls for police reform sparks divisions in Congress The Hill's 12:30 Report: Pence visits Orlando as all 50 states reopen 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.