Wicker Supports Fight Against Opioid Crisis

Bipartisan Bill Would Give Communities the Resources to Save Lives

July 18, 2016

There are now more deaths by drug overdose in America than deaths by car accidents. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), drugs take the lives of 129 Americans every day. It is the leading cause of injury-related death in the country.

Mississippi has been swept up in this national epidemic. Drugs were responsible for the deaths of 336 Mississippians in 2014. Most fatal drug overdoses are caused by highly addictive opioids, such as heroin or prescription painkillers like oxycodone, codeine, and morphine. Heroin overdoses have risen drastically, accounting for 13 deaths in Mississippi in just the first six months of last year. By contrast, only a few years ago, heroin claimed a single death in our state annually.

Although painkillers have been prescribed for decades, their use since the mid-1990s for the treatment of chronic pain has led to a wider availability than in the past. According to a 2014 CDC study, our state is one of only a dozen in the nation where there are more prescriptions for painkillers than there are people. For example, there were 120 prescriptions filled for every 100 people in a single year.

Nearly Half of Americans Are Personally Impacted

The scale of the epidemic grows when we consider the impact of drug addiction on entire families and communities. According to a survey released earlier this year by the Kaiser Family Foundation, nearly half of all Americans say they personally know someone who has been addicted to prescription painkillers. One in five survey respondents said they have had a family member addicted to opioids. A majority named the absence of treatment as a major problem.

Opioid abuse can happen in any community. It spans geography, age, race, and socioeconomic backgrounds. Targeted prevention and treatment efforts at the local level promise to make a big difference in stemming the tide of dependence across this wide demographic. The goal is to facilitate ways for those struggling to get the help they need to recover and live productive lives.

Senate Focuses on Community Approach to Drug Prevention

I am pleased Congress has taken up the fight against addiction in a constructive, bipartisan manner. Earlier this month, the House and Senate came to an agreement on the “Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA),” putting together a far-reaching response plan that would implement better strategies for prevention and treatment. In particular, it would equip communities, first responders, and law enforcement with resources they need to build awareness and save lives. More than 130 groups across the country, representing police, district attorneys, anti-drug advocates, and public officials, have endorsed this effort. Like the individual House and Senate versions of CARA, the measure passed with strong support. It now needs the President’s signature to become law, which is expected in the coming days.

CARA is just the latest piece of legislation passed by the Republican-led Senate to focus on the health and security of our communities and neighborhoods. Other bills this Congress have focused on eliminating human trafficking, keeping children safe, protecting the elderly, and curbing crime. Ensuring that America’s communities are good places to live and work should be a priority at all levels of government, from local municipal boards to the U.S. Congress. The well-being of our families is directly related to the well-being of our entire country.