Communities all across our country have been impacted by a devastating crisis of heroin and opioid drug abuse that often leads to overdoses and death. Unfortunately, our state has not been spared by this terrible epidemic.
Nationally, the number of fatal overdoses from prescription drugs quadrupled from 1999 to 2015, according to the Center for Disease Control, and here in Delaware, 308 of our neighbors, friends, and family members died from opioid or prescription drug abuse last year. To put it into context: last year’s deaths from overdoses is almost triple the number of Delawareans who were killed in traffic accidents.
One of the most tragic things about the opioid epidemic is that it is both preventable and treatable with the right programs and resources.
Ensuring that prevention programs and resources are available and properly funded should be a top priority for the federal government, and as your Senator, I can tell you that it is a top priority of mine. I continue to hear too many stories from Delawareans about how the opioid epidemic has affected their loved ones, and while the federal government has contributed a good deal of resources to address the rise of opioid abuses, we have far more work to do.
There is some good news. Throughout Fiscal Year 2017, Congress will devote more than $1.3 billion to specific efforts to combat the opioid and heroin epidemic. This includes more than $160 million for the Department of Justice, $801 million for the Department of Health and Human Services, and $367 million for the Department of Veterans Affairs. Altogether, that’s more than double the federal investment in fighting the opioid epidemic from Fiscal Year 2016.
Last year, Congress also took two important steps to address this crisis.
First, we passed the bipartisan Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), which supports evidence-based drug treatment and prevention programs and helps combat the over-prescription of opioids and other prescription medications.
And in December, Congress passed the bipartisan 21st Century Cures Act, which included $1 billion over two years for grants to help states combat the opioid epidemic. The grants, which are administered by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, can be used toward opioid prevention and treatment programs. In April, the first round of funding went out to every state and Delaware received a $2 million grant through this program.
These are just a few examples of the initiatives and funding that I have continued to fight for to combat this crisis, but as long as the crisis continues to impact our communities, we have to keep up our efforts.
As we continue working in Congress to fix the problems with our healthcare system, know that I won’t forget the Delawareans who have been touched by this crisis.
I’ll fight against bills that take away health care access for Delawareans and against any harmful cuts to programs and funding. I will not stand by while this epidemic continues to cost far too many lives in our nation and in our state.