On average, 130 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose. Drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in the United States, with opioids being the most common. Since the start of the 21st century, we have lost nearly the same number of lives to the opioid crisis as we lost in World War II, including more than 6,000 Oklahomans.

President Trump designated the week of September 8th through September 14th as Opioid Crisis Awareness Week. This is an opportunity to remember those whose lives were cut short and reaffirm our commitment to ending this crisis once and for all.

Last Congress this was our top priority and we were able to work with President Trump to make great strides forward. Both sides came together to pass the largest Congressional effort to combat a single drug crisis in history, the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act. This legislation advances treatment and recovery initiatives, improves prevention, protects our communities, and bolsters our efforts to fight deadly synthetic drugs, like fentanyl.

Now we’re seeing progress. Preliminary data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) shows that overdose deaths are declining for the first time in nearly three decades. But even one overdose death is too many and we must continue to work to end this epidemic.

One thing, which will make a huge difference in fighting the crisis, was left behind in the process when we passed the legislation last year– my Overdose Prevention and Patient Safety Act.

Doctors must have the whole picture on a patient’s medical history in order to safely and effectively treat that patient. Right now, there are federal regulations that determine the confidentiality of patient records for substance use disorder treatment programs, known as 42 CFR Part 2. And often times, doctors can’t see if a patient has been treated for a substance use disorder.

My bill breaks down those barriers, while still maintaining patient confidentiality, and brings this outdated law into the 21st century. President Trump and the Department of Health and Human Services have recently taken action to help treat patients with a substance use disorder by making reforms to Part 2 that will improve care for patients, reduce the burden on providers, and maintain important privacy protections. But they have gone as far as they can without passing legislation. Congress needs to pass my bipartisan bill to fully and permanently aid doctors and patients who are struggling.

We all know someone who has been affected by the opioid epidemic, whether it’s a friend, family member, or loved one. It’s going to take all of us - individuals, communities and elected officials - working together to finally put an end to the crisis. It’s a fight worth fighting and it’s one that we can win.

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