The following op-ed was submitted by U.S. Rep. David Joyce (R, OH-14).
Drug overdoses killed 4,329 Ohioans in 2016, the second-highest death rate in the nation. That’s up 24 percent over the 3,310 drug deaths the previous year, according to a report released by the National Center for Health Statistics, part of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The opioid epidemic ravaging our country is showing no signs of slowing down.
This is one of the reasons that I have been pushing the Administration to provide emergency funding to combat this epidemic. I’ve teamed up with my colleague and friend, Congressman Tim Ryan, in leading a bipartisan group of legislators in requesting the Office of Management and Budget submit an emergency funding request to Congress immediately.
In normal circumstances when a disaster strikes like a hurricane, a tornado or wildfires, the federal government jumps into action. We immediately provide joint aid to the areas ravaged. We send supplies. We mobilize our military and most importantly, we send funding to help with the recovery.
Now, in most of those cases, we do not know the damage until the disaster has occurred. However, as it relates to opioids, we actually are watching firsthand the damage it is doing to families and our communities. I am asking for the administration and Congress to treat the opioid epidemic the same way as any other disaster.
Jump into action now. Don’t wait. We cannot wait until the next funding cycle to lend a hand. That will take too long to get the funding to states and communities that need it.
The good news is President Trump and his administration agree. In October, President Trump directed the Department of Health and Human Services to declare the opioid crisis a public health emergency. That first step was huge. We expect early next year that the Administration’s National Drug Control Strategy will be released. It will be a comprehensive drug strategy covering law enforcement, interdiction, prevention, treatment, justice system issues, recovery, and research.
It will also contain some costs. I’m pushing for the Administration and Congress to move an emergency funding bill — just like disaster aid — to boost funding to fight the epidemic. You see, we cannot wait to do this in the normal appropriations process. This epidemic is doing too much damage for us to wait until 2019 to get more funds in the pipeline. And anyone who has watched our broken-down appropriations process knows nothing is guaranteed in this.
According to the report done by the Police Executive Research Forum, more Americans died from drug overdoses in 2016 than the number of American lives lost in the entirety of the Vietnam War, which totaled 58,200. Nationally, there were 63,632 drug deaths in 2016, nearly 20 per 100,000 people. That was 21 percent higher than the rate in 2015, when 52,404 died. In 2016 alone, 42,249 U.S. drug fatalities — 66 percent of the total — involved opioids.
That’s more than a thousand more than the 41,070 Americans who die from breast cancer every year.
We’ve got a human addiction tsunami. We need all hands-on deck including the full resources of the federal government. The more time we wait, the more lives will be lost.