Democrat: Lawmakers need to approach opioid crisis as 'a chronic situation'

Democrat: Lawmakers need to approach opioid crisis as 'a chronic situation'
© Greg Nash

Rep. Paul TonkoPaul David TonkoAs we face coronavirus battle, we must ensure critical supplies of respirators for health care workers Overnight Energy: Murkowski, Manchin unveil major energy bill | Lawmakers grill EPA chief over push to slash agency's budget | GOP lawmaker accuses Trump officials of 'playing politics' over Yucca Mountain Lawmakers grill EPA chief over push to slash agency's budget MORE (D-N.Y.) said Wednesday that lawmakers need to start to looking at opioid addiction as a “chronic situation” in working to combat the crisis plaguing the nation.

“When you look at the data, and those data are compelling, they tell us that we do have a crisis at our hands and we have an epidemic, and if we’re going to utilize those labelings, let’s act accordingly, and let’s respond in crisis proportion,” Tonko, who sits on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, told The Hill’s editor-at-large Steve Clemons at America's Opioid Epidemic: Lessons Learned & A Way Forward, sponsored by Indivior.

“I think it’s important to look at that three-pronged approach that includes prevention, includes treatment, and includes recovery,” he continued. “There needs to be an acknowledgment by policymakers such as myself, that for many this will be a chronic situation. It will be a lifetime of treatment in order for them to address the illness that impacts them.”

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The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) declared a public health emergency in response to the opioid epidemic.

Two million people suffered from an opioid use disorder in 2018, while 10.3 million misused opioids, according to HHS. More than 47,000 individuals died from overdosing on opioids in 2018.

Republican David JoyceDavid Patrick JoyceBoeing suspends Washington production, GE Aviation lays off thousands Mnuchin details IRS challenges with cash-only marijuana businesses Democrat: Lawmakers need to approach opioid crisis as 'a chronic situation' MORE (Ohio), who was also present at the event, echoed Tonko’s sentiment.

“This is something that is completely different,” Joyce told The Hill’s editor-in-chief Bob CusackRobert (Bob) CusackHill's Editor-In-Chief: Is Washington establishment failing the test of this crisis? Democrat: Lawmakers need to approach opioid crisis as 'a chronic situation' The Hill's Editor-in-Chief: Can Michael Bloomberg erase his terrible debate performance? MORE, comparing opioid addiction to alcohol addiction.

The congressman said the the recidivism rates with alcohol addiction was no longer near that of opioids, adding that more resources needed to be put into helping addicts change their lifestyles.

“I go around to all of these different community centers and police departments and sheriffs departments, and ask what’s working? What hasn’t worked? How can we be better? Where can we push more money?” Joyce said.

“One thing that you’ll notice that’s a common denominator now is the fact that this is not something that is 28 days. This is maybe nine months to two years, and we’d really need to extend our programs and help facilitate that change in actual lifestyle,” he continued. “Returning people to where they came without employment tends to put them right back in the situation that got them there in the first place.”