From Congressman Griffith's E-Newsletter:
Fighting Opioid Abuse – An Update
Our nation is in the throes of a real, devastating opioid epidemic that is plaguing our communities. Too many have been affected by this growing epidemic, which destroys lives, families, and communities.
Addressing this epidemic continues to be a priority. I am pleased to report that legislation to help tackle this problem – the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (S.524) – has cleared both chambers of Congress. It is heading to the President’s desk, where we expect it soon to be signed into law.
That bill, which deals with many different issues driving the opioid crisis, comes after much bipartisan work. It earned the support of many of our nation’s leading advocacy groups, many of whom are on the front lines of the fight against the epidemic.
Interestingly, one of the concepts included in the legislation was actually discussed by a participant in a roundtable I hosted in Bristol with Congressman Phil Roe M.D. (R-TN) as part of our ongoing efforts to combat opioid drug abuse in the region. This concept was to permit certain additional people to take back expired, unused, or unwanted prescription opioid drugs. Currently only the Drug Enforcement Agency can do so. Under this bill, however, pharmacists, doctors, etc. will be able to take back drugs, helping keep households free of unneeded medications. Accordingly, this would work to decrease opportunities for folks to acquire drugs that aren’t theirs. Our roundtable included local health and law enforcement exports, focused in on how we can better collaboratively fight the opioid abuse problem.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse has reported that more than 25,000 people died from prescription drug overdose in 2014, and more than 17,000 died from an illicit drug overdose. While the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act includes important solutions to help our communities, our urgent efforts to help save lives will continue.
Mental Health Reforms – An Update
As with the opioid epidemic, mental health issues affect the lives of many. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, approximately 53.8 million Americans suffer from mental illness. Unfortunately, drug abuse and mental health issues can go hand-in-hand. Some with mental illness may try to self-medicate, and some who abuse drugs can develop mental illnesses.
Following a multi-year effort, my colleagues and I on the Energy and Commerce Committee unanimously passed on a bipartisan basis the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act (H.R. 2646) on June 15. This is an important step forward in strengthening our mental health care system and helping families and loved ones struggling with mental health disorders.
The legislation went on to pass the full House of Representatives earlier this month in a vote of 422-2, and this effort now moves on to the Senate. Though there is more work to be done, I am encouraged by this progress and am pleased to have played a role in the advancement of this legislation. I encourage the Senate to quickly consider and approve it.