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#SubOversight Examines the Opioid Crisis at the State Level

Jul 12, 2017

WASHINGTON, DC – The Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, chaired by Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA), today held a hearing examining current challenges states have in combating the opioid epidemic, ways the federal government can assist, and whether their efforts that have begun to make a difference.

“Addiction is an equal opportunity destroyer. It is a crisis that does not pick people based on their age, race, or socioeconomic status. And it most certainly does not pick based on political parties,” stated full committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR). “From my roundtables throughout the Second District of Oregon, it didn’t matter if I was in a rural community or a more populated city; the tragic stories were similar. We all know someone who has been impacted by this epidemic. In Oregon, more people now die from drug-related overdoses than from automobile accidents – and sadly, that is not unique to my home state.”

“This is an in extremis moment requiring all the experience, resources, and cooperation of our federal, state, and local governments, as well as all the different industries, professionals, and experts to curb this outbreak,” stated Chairman Murphy at the start of today's hearing. “With this hearing, we will focus on the actions of our state governments to find out what efforts are working, what is not working, and how we can work together to save lives, restore communities, and repair the millions of families torn apart by the deadliest drug crisis in United States history.”

#SubOversight witnesses being sworn in by Chairman Murphy.

Kentucky Justice and Public Safety Cabinet Secretary John Tilley also highlighted fentanyl (and its countless analogues), which he labeled the “lead culprit” in his state’s overdose deaths. Secretary Tilley testified, “According to the Kentucky State Police, there was a 6,000 percent increase in laboratory samples submitted to the Central Forensic Laboratory testing positive for fentanyl from 2010 to 2016.”

Virginia Homeland Security and Public Safety Secretary Brian Moran shared information about last year’s fatal fentanyl overdoses – up 175 percent, saying, “But it is not only the deaths which must concern us: It is the increasing numbers of non-fatal overdoses, the resource and access challenges to providing evidence based treatment and recovery supports.”

Maryland Lieutenant Governor Boyd K. Rutherford highlighted his state’s multi-pronged response to the opioid epidemic, specifically citing the creation of the Heroin and Opioid Emergency Task Force in 2015 and the establishment of the Inter-Agency Heroin and Opioid Coordinating Council. Together, more than 30 recommendations have made to combat the epidemic, raise awareness, and boost prevention efforts.

“The final report also recognized the need for treatment on demand and discussed the barriers to such a program,” stated Lieutenant Governor Rutherford. “The key to improving access to high-quality treatment lies in creating a delivery system that provides a full continuum of substance use services and care. …The $2 million of 21st Century Cures Act funding in support of a 24-hour stabilization center in Baltimore City will be an important step toward a system of treatment on demand.”

Rebecca L. Boss, Director of the Rhode Island Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Departmental Disabilities & Hospitals, spoke to efforts in her state to combat the epidemic, notably: reducing the supply of opioid prescriptions, reducing the illicit demand of these drugs, uniform testing for the presence of fentanyl in a patient, and ensuring Naloxone is available in communities.

For more information on todays hearing, including a background memo, witness testimony, and archived webcast, click HERE.