The Time is Now to Fund Fight Against Drug Epidemic

September is National Recovery Month, a time to learn more about substance abuse and to reflect on the power of recovery to help change lives for the better. And while this month is a hopeful reminder that people can and do recover from addiction, it also reinforces the fact that we must do more to fund the fight against the heroin and opioid epidemic.

In March, the Senate passed CARA – the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act – which the President later signed into law. This is a good law that does important things to begin to combat the drug epidemic, but unfortunately, at the same time, we didn’t pass funding to support many of the CARA programs. We didn’t provide additional funds to support the treatment and recovery that people need in Maine and throughout the country.

 Since we passed CARA, close to 15,000 people have died – 78 a day, 3 an hour – because we haven’t acted on funding. These are real people. Ordinary Americans are being affected by this crisis on a daily basis.

According to the Maine Attorney General’s Office, 272 people in Maine died in 2015 as a result of drug overdoses – with the overwhelming majority of those deaths caused by heroin, fentanyl or prescription opioids. And it was recently announced that the overdose deaths in Maine are on a harrowing pace to exceed that number in 2016. We’ve seen 189 deaths through the first six months of this year in our state, and these tragic losses are coming at a time when the demand for treatment services has increased but access to them has decreased.

I’ve had roundtable discussions across Maine and met with the people living through the opioid and heroin epidemic every day. I’ve spoken with family members who have lost loved ones, law enforcement, doctors, nurses, treatment experts, first responders, and many others – and one of the overwhelming takeaways is that treatment works. It may not work the first, second, or even fifth time, but people can and do recover if they can access the treatment they need. 

 It’s time to deal with this terrible problem that is taking lives, tearing families apart, and deeply wounding the heart of America. I’ve sent letters to the President and to the leaders of the Senate Appropriations Committee – who play an important role in what gets funded and what doesn’t – calling for everyone to work together to fund the CARA law and meet this crisis head on.

 

 As Congress works to keep the government funded this month, I hope that we can also come together to finally put our money where our mouths are when it comes to tackling the addiction epidemic. We simply cannot let an opportunity to fund these critical prevention, treatment and recovery efforts slip through our fingers. The time to act is now.