01.09.18

OPIOIDS: Sen. Murray Highlights Need for More Resources to Help Communities Respond, Prevent Opioid Misuse

In opening statement, Sen. Murray spoke about visiting with families and individuals fighting the opioid crisis at a hospital in Washington state where almost one out of every two babies born has a mother struggling with substance use

 

Sen. Murray emphasized the wide-ranging impact of the crisis on families and communities

 

Sen. Murray called out the Trump Administration for failing to live up to its promises to take serious action against the opioid epidemic

 

Sen. Murray: “If we are going to beat the scourge of opioid addiction, we need to fund and enact solutions that are as comprehensive as this challenge.”

 

***WATCH SEN. MURRAY’S OPENING STATEMENT HERE***

 

(Washington, D.C.) Today, Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), Ranking Member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, delivered the following remarks at a hearing to discuss how the opioid crisis evolved and the urgent need to respond with additional funding and services. This was the latest in a discussion of the opioid crisis that will continue with a future hearing where the Committee expects to hear more about how families are impacted by the epidemic.

 

In her opening statement, Sen. Murray emphasized the broad impact of the opioid epidemic, and spoke of the stories she has heard firsthand from countless patients, families, medical providers, and law enforcement officials in communities throughout Washington state. Sen. Murray sharply criticized the Trump Administration for failing to live up to its promises of serious action to address this crisis. As she contrasted the Administration’s approach with the bipartisan efforts from Congress—like the 21st Century Cures Act and the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA)—Sen. Murray emphasized the importance of continuing to make further investments state and local officials need to turn the tide against the crisis.

 

Key Excerpts of Sen. Patty Murray’s opening statement:

 

“…the rise of this epidemic is broader in scope than any one book can tell. There are people from every background and every corner of the country who have stories about the harm that has been done. They are parents who have lost children to an overdose, children who have lost parents to an overdose, veterans in chronic pain who are struggling with addiction, doctors who are treating babies born addicted to opioids, and more. I’ve heard their heartbreaking stories firsthand traveling around Washington state and meeting with doctors, families, and communities fighting this disease. While visiting a local hospital in Longview, the staff there told me that almost one out of every two babies born there have mothers who struggle with substance use. That is stunning. It is heartbreaking. But it is, unfortunately, not the only evidence of this epidemic.  Since 2000, nearly 10,000 people in Washington state have died of an opioid overdose.”

 

“And when I say this epidemic affects everyone—I don’t just mean the individuals facing opioid addiction, there are other victims too. This epidemic hurts families. It leaves children struggling to cope with the impact of their parent’s addiction. It leaves many of them in foster homes. It leaves parents shattered with the heartbreak of their child’s illness, and leaves many struggling with the financial costs of opioid misuse and treatment and recovery as well. And this epidemic hurts our communities as a whole. It takes up resources of public health, hospitals, and law enforcement. It takes workers out of the local economy. It takes a toll on the morale of small towns and big cities alike with each new tragedy."

 

“One of the stories that stood out to me in your book, Mr. Quinones, was about a state employee from the Washington Department of Labor & Industries, a woman named Jaymie Mai. Jaymie was a pharmacist charged with “overseeing the cases of workers receiving prescription drugs for injuries. After six months, Mai noticed that some of these workers were dying from the same painkillers they’d been prescribed. The paper she published in 2005 about the uptick in high-strength opioid prescriptions and deaths was one of the first papers in the country to document the impact of the crisis we face today. But she published her paper over a decade ago—which just shows we have been fighting this battle for far too long. And that we must do more.”

 

“And unfortunately, while we have heard a lot of talk from the Trump Administration on this, we have yet to see the President take the kind of serious action this emergency demands—and that he promised families on the campaign trail. The White House’s own Council of Economic Advisors released a report estimating the economic cost of the opioid crisis to be over $500 billion dollars—just for 2015. Addressing a problem this big will take an enormous investment of time, energy, focus – and robust funding. The President’s third quarter paycheck is not going to cut it. Our communities are crying out for serious solutions, not stunts.”

 

Mr. Chairman I look forward to working with you to have all of our members bring their ideas forward so we can work on moving policies that would help families and communities. We must do more to fund prevention efforts and treatment programs and build on the gains made. This means immediately providing supplemental funding states need to implement evidence-based tools that could turn this epidemic around. We need to ensure local stakeholders and partners – the people on the ground who know what works best for their communities – have the resources and information they need to respond to the crisis. It also means going beyond prevention, treatment, and recovery. We must work to support not only the individuals facing addiction, but the families and communities who are suffering too.  I’m interested to hear Mr. Quinones’ perspective on how we do that and again, am grateful to have you with us today. If we are going to beat the scourge of opioid addiction, we need to fund and enact solutions that are as comprehensive as this challenge.”

 

Video of Sen. Murray’s Opening Remarks Available HERE.

 

Full text below of Sen. Murray’s Opening statement:

 

“Thank you Mr. Chairman. I’m glad to be continuing our discussion on this important issue.

 

“I know our witness today has been following the opioid crisis and its growth into the full-blown epidemic families and communities across the nation are facing today.

 

“Mr. Quinones, thank you for joining us. I’d also like to welcome your wife and daughter. I’m glad they were able to be here with you. I look forward to hearing your perspective on how we can better help communities fight this crisis and support all those whom it has impacted. I appreciate the investigative work you’ve done to help shed light on this challenge.

 

“Of course—and I’m sure you would agree—the rise of this epidemic is broader in scope than any one book can tell. There are people from every background and every corner of the country who have stories about the harm that has been done. They are parents who have lost children to an overdose, children who have lost parents to an overdose, veterans in chronic pain who are struggling with addiction, doctors who are treating babies born addicted to opioids, and more.

 

"I’ve heard their heartbreaking stories firsthand traveling around Washington state and meeting with doctors, families, and communities fighting this disease.

 

“While visiting a local hospital in Longview, the staff there told me that almost one out of every two babies born there have mothers who struggle with substance use. That is stunning. It is heartbreaking. But it is, unfortunately, not the only evidence of this epidemic.  Since 2000, nearly 10,000 people in Washington state have died of an opioid overdose.

“And this isn’t just happening in Longview, it is happening in local hospitals across the nation. We are losing 91 people every day to opioid overdose. And when I say this epidemic affects everyone—I don’t just mean the individuals facing opioid addiction, there are other victims too.

 

“This epidemic hurts families. It leaves children struggling to cope with the impact of their parent’s addiction. It leaves many of them in foster homes. It leaves parents shattered with the heartbreak of their child’s illness, and leaves many struggling with the financial costs of opioid misuse and treatment and recovery as well.

 

“And this epidemic hurts our communities as a whole. It takes up resources of public health, hospitals, and law enforcement. It takes workers out of the local economy. It takes a toll on the morale of small towns and big cities alike with each new tragedy.

 

“We are behind the curve on fighting this epidemic.

 

“One of the stories that stood out to me in your book, Mr. Quinones, was about a state employee from the Washington Department of Labor & Industries, a woman named Jaymie Mai.

 

“Jaymie was a pharmacist charged with “overseeing the cases of workers receiving prescription drugs for injuries. After six months, Mai noticed that some of these workers were dying from the same painkillers they’d been prescribed. The paper she published in 2005 about the uptick in high-strength opioid prescriptions and deaths was one of the first papers in the country to document the impact of the crisis we face today.

 

“But she published her paper over a decade ago—which just shows we have been fighting this battle for far too long. And that we must do more.

 

“Now, I’m glad that we have taken some necessary steps.

 

“In 2016, Congress passed the 21st Century Cures Act, which included nearly $1 billion of funding for states to address the opioid crisis through prevention, treatment, and recovery efforts. And the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act—which supports specific outreach for veterans and pregnant and postpartum women, expands access to medication-assisted treatments, and much more.

 

“However, there is still work to be done. Along with many of my colleagues I hope that we can move more funding in any upcoming budget or appropriations agreements. First responders, state and local officials, treatment professionals and families have made it clear that continued federal funding is key to addressing this crisis.

 

“And unfortunately, while we have heard a lot of talk from the Trump Administration on this, we have yet to see the President take the kind of serious action this emergency demands—and that he promised families on the campaign trail. The White House’s own Council of Economic Advisors released a report estimating the economic cost of the opioid crisis to be over $500 billion dollars—just for 2015. Addressing a problem this big will take an enormous investment of time, energy, focus – and robust funding. The President’s third quarter paycheck is not going to cut it. Our communities are crying out for serious solutions, not stunts.

 

“So I am eager to see this committee continue its bipartisan approach and take substantive action to address this epidemic over the next couple months.

 

“Mr. Chairman I look forward to working with you to have all of our members bring their ideas forward so we can work on moving policies that would help families and communities.   

 

“We must do more to fund prevention efforts and treatment programs and build on the gains made. This means immediately providing supplemental funding states need to implement evidence-based tools that could turn this epidemic around. We need to ensure local stakeholders and partners – the people on the ground who know what works best for their communities – have the resources and information they need to respond to the crisis. It also means going beyond prevention, treatment, and recovery. We must work to support not only the individuals facing addiction, but the families and communities who are suffering too.

 

“I’m interested to hear Mr. Quinones’ perspective on how we do that and again, am grateful to have you with us today.

 

“If we are going to beat the scourge of opioid addiction, we need to fund and enact solutions that are as comprehensive as this challenge.

 

“I look forward to our continued work together.”

 

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