While the news of the day and partisan bickering often distract from the issue, it is important that we remember our nation is in the midst of an urgent public health epidemic that is ravaging virtually every community in this country. Hundreds of thousands of lives have been cut short by opioid addiction and abuse in recent years. Last year alone, more than 72,000 Americans lost their lives due to complications from drug overdose. Of those fatalities, nearly 50,000 were related to opioids.
In Congress, we have made great strides towards addressing this tragic epidemic that is gripping the State of Alabama and the entire country, and we recently made even more progress by passing H.R. 6, the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act. This bill authorizes critical funding to assist states in combatting the opioid crisis, expand patient access to addiction treatment, and improve the detection of importation of illegal drugs, including fentanyl. H.R. 6 has passed both the House and Senate and now awaits President Trump’s signature. I am eager to see it become law.
One aspect of H.R. 6 that is especially worth highlighting is the bill’s increased attention to addiction treatment. This legislation will create a grant program for comprehensive recovery centers that provide housing and job training in addition to mental and physical health care. The bill will also increase access to medication-assisted treatments that help individuals with addiction disorders safely wean themselves off of opioids.
Another significant element of H.R. 6 is the change it would implement to an outdated rule that prohibits Medicaid from covering patients with substance abuse disorders who were receiving treatment in a mental health facility with more than 16 beds. This legislation will lift that rule and allow up to 30 days of residential treatment coverage.
In addition to House and Senate passage of H.R. 6, Congress has allocated $8.5 billion this year for opioid-related programs. While there’s no guarantee of this level of funding in future years, I believe that Congress is taking this public health crisis seriously and will remain committed to properly funding efforts to combat it.
The opioid crisis has devastated both rural and urban communities of all sizes in every corner of our country. The problem has grown too large to solve itself, and while I am proud of the steps we’ve taken in Congress, much work remains in this fight. Opioid overdose is now the leading cause of accidental death in the United States, causing more fatalities than car accidents.
In order to fight this battle with the aggression it requires, we must be unified and coordinated in our efforts. Action must be taken by leadership in local communities, in state governments, and in the federal government. I am glad that in Congress, this fight has garnered the widespread support it deserves. American lives depend on all of us, and our work is far from being complete. I’m eager to see President Trump sign H.R. 6 into law, and I will continue to support efforts to combat the opioid epidemic on behalf of Alabama’s Second District.
Martha Roby represents Alabama’s Second Congressional District. She lives in Montgomery, Alabama, with her husband Riley and their two children.