Jan 11 2018

VIDEO: Blunt on Opioid Epidemic: “This is an Issue That’s Hit Every Town in America, Small and Large”

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator Roy Blunt (Mo.) spoke on the Senate floor to outline the steps that are necessary to help address the opioid epidemic, particularly in our nation’s rural areas. In his remarks, Blunt underscored the need for a sustained federal commitment to addressing the epidemic. As chairman of the appropriations subcommittee that funds the Department of Health and Human Services, Blunt has increased funding for opioid-related programs by nearly $760 million – a 1,300 percent increase.

Following are excerpts from Blunt’s remarks:

“This is an issue that's hit every town in America, small and large. … According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 40,000 people died from opioid overdose. Now this is just a fraction of the people that had an opioid overdose. These are the people that died from an opioid overdose in 2016. Forty thousand people. ... It was a 28 percent increase over 2015 and a dramatic increase over where we were just ten years before. Opioid overdoses now surpass car accidents as the number one accidental cause of death in the country. …

“The economic cost of all of this, lost productivity, addiction, the crime related to that addiction, CDC says $78.5 billion a year is now the cost. …

“Our colleagues have had a chance to confront this issue in our committee head on. We’ve brought bills to the floor that have passed, that have made a big difference in a short period of time. Over the past two years, not counting what we hope to do this year, the committee’s increased opioid funding by over $900 million, nearly a 200 percent increase for the Department of Health and Human Services. More money for [the Department of] Justice, more money for the Department of Veterans Affairs. This funding has worked to focus on things like developing alternatives for pain management, giving our state, federal and local law enforcement partners the tools they need to combat opioid trafficking, ensuring that first responders, that we’re working to see that there are better ways to respond in opioid reversal. …

“The committee on the Department of Health and Human Services, that funds that department, that would be the committee that we're both on, in the last two years we've increased funding by 1,300 percent, $745 million, 13 times more than we were spending just two years ago. We've given grants to states in ways that they haven't before, to look at specific state needs and ideas they have to deal with this and then share. We've looked at increasing federal surveillance of how prescriptions are being written, how drugstores are becoming the conduit, how many things are coming through the mail, to find new ways to determine whether this is a reasonable thing in the area that these drugs are going into. …

“If you're a first responder in a fire department, if you're a fire department that also has first responders, your department is three times more likely, your fire department, three times more likely to go to an overdose than they are to go to a fire. That's where we are in this situation today. … I had a meeting not too long ago with medical professionals, with state officials, with emergency responders in Springfield, Missouri, to talk about how we deal with prevention and treatment and recovery. You know, we talked about the critical partnership between local, state and federal law enforcement and the dangers that the first responders themselves face. Sometimes this, what people are putting in their system is so powerful and so addictive, that walking into the room or touching the clothing, becomes a potentially great danger for the person who's there to help you. …

“This is a top priority. It’s been a top priority for over three years now. The first two years showed dramatic increases in the willingness to deal with this and the breadth of how we deal with it, and that’s one reason we need to move on and get this funding bill that should have been done by October 1 done right now.”