Norcross, Bipartisan Heroin Task Force Calls on House Leadership, Appropriators to Fund Opioid Epidemic Public Health Emergency
WASHINGTON, DC – Today, the Bipartisan Heroin Task Force is calling on Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, and Appropriations Committee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ) and Ranking Member Nita Lowey (D-NY) to support funding for the opioid epidemic public health emergency. The letter, led by Task Force co-chairs Donald Norcross (D-NJ), Annie Kuster (D-NH), Tom MacArthur (R-NJ) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), joined by 40 additional Task Force members, calls on House Leadership and Appropriators to replenish the public health emergency fund and provide supplemental opioid funding so that resources can be directed to those on the front lines of the opioid epidemic.
“It is of vital importance that you provide additional funding in support of the President's public health emergency declaration as soon as possible. As we entered the New Year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released their 2016 drug overdose mortality figures. The CDC reported over 42,000 opioid-related overdose deaths, an increase of 28% from 2015,” the members wrote. “We urge you to include additional funding in support of the President’s public health emergency declaration as part of ongoing negotiations to complete the fiscal year 2018 federal budget. Additionally, we request consideration of supplemental appropriations as part of any continuing resolution considered by Congress.”
The Bipartisan Heroin Task Force has been a driver of Congressional action to take on the opioid epidemic. The Task Force successfully pushed for the inclusion of $1 billion in funding as part of the 21st Century Cures Act to address the opioid epidemic and helped pass 14 bills which were signed into law as part of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA). Last month, the Task Force unveiled its legislative agenda for 2018. Two pieces of legislation on the agenda, the VA Prescription Data Accountability Act and the INTERDICT Act, have already been signed into law.
The full text of the Task Force letter is available here and below:
Dear Speaker Ryan, Leader Pelosi, Chairman Frelinghuysen, and Ranking Member Lowey:
It is of vital importance that you provide additional funding in support of the President's public health emergency declaration as soon as possible. As we entered the New Year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released their 2016 drug overdose mortality figures. The CDC reported over 42,000 opioid-related overdose deaths, an increase of 28% from 2015. Worse yet, the number of fatal fentanyl and synthetic opioid overdoses more than doubled to over 19,000. The opioid and heroin epidemic is no longer the worst drug crisis in American history; it is now one of the worst public health crises the nation has ever faced.
In October, the President took additional action to address the crisis by declaring a national public health emergency. His decision was encouraging because it meant granting the federal government additional flexibility to effectively address this crisis. It was the hope of our communities and constituents that such a declaration would bring with it additional resources required to quell this scourge.
On November 1, 2017, the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis released their report recommending new funding for the public health emergency declaration. Resources devoted to combating the opioid epidemic are largely contained within existing grant programs across the federal government. These programs are vital. But as the Commission noted, it is essential to dedicate funds to the public health emergency declaration, especially in light of the fact that the Public Health Emergency Fund is currently not adequately funded.
Despite the grim realities of the opioid crisis, Congress and the American people have worked together in a bipartisan manner to improve treatment and recovery services across the country. The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act was landmark legislation that, for the first time, provided a coordinated, interagency effort to address the complexities of drug addiction. The 21st Century Cures Act devoted an unprecedented amount of resources to the crisis. And our communities have worked to improve state and local resources for their neighbors and loved ones. However, 175 Americans are dying each day – it is clear the nation needs additional resources to combat the epidemic.
We urge you to include additional funding in support of the President’s public health emergency declaration as part of ongoing negotiations to complete the fiscal year 2018 federal budget. Additionally, we request consideration of supplemental appropriations as part of any continuing resolution considered by Congress. It is vital that stakeholders working tirelessly to combat the heroin and opioid epidemic receive additional resources as soon as possible.
Thank you for your consideration on this issue of national importance. We remain committed to ensuring that this priority of both the Administration and Congress receives the necessary funding.