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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 TonkoOvernight Energy: Trump officials finalize plan to open up protected areas of Tongass to logging | Feds say offshore testing for oil can proceed despite drilling moratorium | Dems question EPA's postponement of inequality training Democrats question EPA postponement of environmental inequality training Clark rolls out endorsements in assistant Speaker race 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 JoyceHouse Republicans who didn't sign onto the Texas lawsuit Candymakers meet virtually with lawmakers for annual fly-in, discuss Halloween safety Stand-alone bill to provide relief for airlines blocked on House floor 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) CusackThe Hill's Morning Report - President Biden, Vice President Harris begin work today Incoming lawmakers stress coronavirus relief, economy as first priority of new session Rep.-elect Issa says Trump should attend Biden inauguration 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.”