We all know someone who has struggled with opioid or prescription pain killer addiction. My own family has loved ones struggling with prescription painkiller addiction.
Addiction affects people across all spectrums of life regardless of race, gender, age, or economic status. Although Congress isn’t known for its bipartisanship in the mainstream media, combating the opioid epidemic is something that my colleagues on both sides of the aisle are passionate about.
This nationwide crisis is a nonpartisan issue that Congress and the White House are working closely together on to remedy.
Oklahomans and the Native population have been hit exceptionally hard by the tragedy of the opioid epidemic. Oklahoma is one of the leading states in prescription painkiller sales per capita with 128 painkiller prescriptions dispensed per 100 people in 2012.
There are enough prescriptions written each year for every Oklahoman to have their own bottle. We lost 813 Oklahomans to an opioid overdose in 2016. The opioid overdose rate for American Indians and Alaska Natives is 8.4 per 100,000—the highest rate of any race in the country aside from Caucasians.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee has made it our mission to combat the opioid epidemic. As a member of the committee, I took part in a two-day long Health Subcommittee hearing last week that focused on more than 20 pieces of legislation that aim to curb the epidemic—including two of my own bills.
The first, the Overdose Prevention and Patient Safety Act (H.R. 3545), would give doctors access to patients’ addiction medical information that can prevent tragic overdoses and improve patient safety.
Doctors cannot fully treat a patient with only half of their medical record and this bill aims to ensure doctors have a patient’s full medical history including any mental health treatments or history of opioid abuse before treating the patient.
The second bill, the Tribal Addiction and Recovery Act (TARA) of 2018 (H.R. 5140), allows tribes direct access to federal opioid grants and allows the grants to be used to treat all forms of substance abuse.
It is a violation of the treaty-trust relationship for tribes to have to petition states for these grants and TARA would correct this inequality by allowing tribal communities to access these resources and use them to treat a number of substance abuse disorders.
I am committed to working with the White House and my colleagues in the House and Senate to find a solution so that in the coming years, we can reduce the devastating number of opioid-related deaths that take the lives of nearly 91 Americans each day.
Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.) represents the second district in the U.S. House of Representatives. He can be reached through http://mullin.house.gov, and at 3109 Azalea Park Drive, Muskogee, OK, 74401, 918-687-2533 or 202-225-2701