The opioid epidemic is personal to all of us. It is blind to party affiliation, socioeconomic status, geographic location, or age. We all know someone who has been affected by the opioid epidemic, whether it’s a friend, family member, or loved one.
Too many lives have been cut short by overdoses. In 2017, our country lost 70,237 people, including 775 Oklahomans, to drug overdoses. 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.
There is no silver bullet to remedy the opioid epidemic, but both sides worked together to turn the tide of the crisis by passing legislation that has had real impact on lives in our communities. One year ago, President Trump signed the Substance Use-Disorder Prevention that Promotes Opioid Recovery and Treatment (SUPPORT) for Patients and Communities Act into law. It is the single largest congressional effort to combat a drug crisis in history.
The SUPPORT Act advances treatment and recovery initiatives for patients across the country, helping them to get access to the treatment they need. Communities also now have resources that help them find grants and other funding opportunities to combat the epidemic. Additionally, the SUPPORT Act takes steps to protect our communities and bolster our efforts to fight deadly synthetic drugs, like fentanyl.
Two pieces of legislation that I sponsored were included in the SUPPORT Act: the Every Prescription Conveyed Securely (EPCS) Act and the Tribal Addiction and Recovery Act (TARA). With doctors writing 710 prescriptions for every 1,000 individuals insured in Oklahoma in 2017, it is clear we need to bring more accountability to opioid prescribing. The EPCS Act mandates e-prescriptions for all controlled substances under Medicare Part D so prescriptions can be tracked electronically across state lines.
Combatting the opioid crisis in Indian Country has been an uphill battle. American Indians and Alaska Natives have the highest overdose rates among minorities and tribal health is chronically underfunded. Originally tribes had to partition states for access to opioid grants. TARA protects tribal sovereignty by providing tribes with direct access to State Targeted Response grants to fight the opioid crisis. My bill provides tribes with the resources needed to turn the tide of the opioid crisis in Indian Country.
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.
The SUPPORT Act is a shining example of what can get done when we put politics aside and work together. But we can’t stop now. There is more that can be done and I remain committed to fighting back until we end this crisis once and for all.
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.