The Opioid Epidemic: No Community is Immune

Rep. Mimi Walters (R-CA) is our House GOP guest blogger this afternoon, where she talks about  the need for preventative action against opioid abuse — especially among younger kids — and for flexibility on the state and local level to best dedicate resources to combat this growing epidemic.

Across the United States we are faced with a substance abuse epidemic that is taking an enormous human toll, especially on our children. Sadly, this crisis results in overdoses, addiction, and for too many, death.

Statistics show that approximately 46,000 Americans die from a drug overdose each year, meaning nearly 130 people die every single day from drug abuse.

No community is immune to this epidemic – not even Orange County, California, the place I have called home for 50 years.

When I served in the California State Senate, I met Natalie Costa, who had just completed a documentary: Behind the Orange Curtain. Natalie was motivated to make the documentary after her daughter’s friend died from an opioid overdose. She wanted to make sure that this young man’s death was not in vain, and so, Natalie set out to educate children, parents, families, teachers, and administrators. Her story and work inspired me to join the fight against opioid abuse.

As a mother of four, I am well aware of the need for parents to be more involved in advocating for substance abuse education in our schools. It also means that parents are prepared for the challenges their children face as they progress through their middle and high school years and on to college. It is critical that we educate children at an early age about the danger of drugs. Taking a proactive approach on this issue can help prevent our youth from engaging in experimentation, which can lead to abuse and addiction down the road.

During my time in the state legislature, I participated in several town halls and panels to discuss the impact prescription drug abuse – particularly opioid abuse – is having on children and families.

One thing I learned over the course of these discussions is the importance of teaching kids that just because certain drugs are legally prescribed by doctors does not mean they are safe – or that these drugs cannot lead to addiction.

Unfortunately, abuse of prescription – and illegal – drugs continues to grow.

In the House of Representatives, we recognize that opioid abuse, which often leads to heroin use, is growing at an alarming pace. We are committed to putting an end to this epidemic.

This week, the House will consider 18 bills to fight opioid abuse and fight back against this escalating scourge. Among other things, our legislation will increase the transparency and accountability of government programs that are designed to curb opioid addiction.

One of those bills, the Comprehensive Opioid Abuse Reduction Act, creates a grant program that will help state and local governments combat opioid addiction. This will provide states and localities with the flexibility they need to dedicate resources where their communities need them most, like prescription drug monitoring programs, overdose treatment training for first responders, or rehabilitation programs. As a member of the House Judiciary Committee, I was pleased to support the bill, which was reported out of the committee with unanimous bipartisan support. I am optimistic that it will be signed into law.

By taking up these bills, we are strengthening our nation’s drug laws to help stop the flow of illicit drugs throughout the United States, which will curb our growing opioid epidemic. We want to help people suffering from addiction reclaim and rebuild their lives.

I believe these bills will accomplish that, and I am proud to be a part of the work Congress is doing on this issue.

-Rep. Mimi Walters (R-CA)