This week, the House continues its bipartisan work to address the opioid epidemic. By the end of this week, we will have considered more than 50 pieces of legislation to support prevention, aid recovery, and protect our communities.
Chances are, you or someone you know has been affected by the opioid epidemic—whether that means wrestling with addiction, supporting a loved one in recovery, or providing comfort to a friend or neighbor dealing with loss.
This epidemic is extremely personal. Last week, Speaker Ryan shared the stories of Kyle Pucek, who is now in recovery following a heroin addiction, and Michelle Jaskulski, a mother whose sons also overcame addictions. Both of them now do outreach to others who may be struggling and advocate for more resources to help prevent and treat addiction.
The stories are staggering, as are the statistics:
- For the second consecutive year, American life expectancy has declined, driven by this growing crisis. Opioid overdose is now the leading cause of death for Americans under the age of 50.
- The rate of babies born in U.S. with neonatal abstinence syndrome—meaning they were exposed to opioids in the womb—quadrupled between 1999 and 2013.
- Opioid-related overdoses caused more than 33,000 deaths in 2015, and more than 40,000 in 2016. That is a greater than 20 percent increase from one year to the next.
One place we see this is in how it has affected communities and public services:
- Firefighters are now on the frontlines, as many of their departments are more likely to respond to an overdose than a fire.
- Hospitals are overwhelmed: Between July 2016 and September 2017, opioid-related ER visits rose 30 percent.
So that’s where these bills will come in—equipping communities with the resources they need to handle this on the ground.
Here’s another way to look at the scope of this epidemic: how it’s making it harder for people to keep a job. One expert found that the jump in opioid prescriptions “could account for about 20 percent of the observed decline in men’s labor force participation during that same period, and 25 percent of the observed decline in women’s labor force participation.”
An initiative the House passed last week will help people stay clean and gain independence by providing for transitional housing, specifically for those in recovery from opioid addiction. This is one of example of how we can support people on their journey back into lives of opportunity.
While this effort is a substantial one, the House will not relent. We will continue to confront this epidemic and work to bring hope to many American families sharing this struggle.