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Combating the Opioid Epidemic

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

Nearly every 12 minutes, someone in the U.S. dies of a drug overdose. People in communities across America are abusing both prescription pain killers and heroin. It is an epidemic. No one is immune; it is a sad reality that is playing out across the country, including in my own district in Southwest Michigan.


There were 13 suspected overdoses in Kalamazoo, Michigan, in the first quarter of 2013, up from 9 in the first quarter of 2012. Behind these numbers are real folks, and their families, suffering. In 2008, we lost Amy Bousfield, an 18 year-old graduate of Portage Central High School. In 2012, Marissa King died at 21 years of age. She began using heroin in 2009, despite having lost two friends to the drug - one of them being Amy Bousfield.

This crisis does not discriminate between large and small, urban and rural, rich and poor. A recent study from the Kaiser Family Foundation found that one in five Americans say they have a family member who's been addicted to prescription painkillers.

It's a frightening prospect, and we must face the opioid epidemic head on. House Republicans are committed to doing just that, working to advance meaningful legislation to combat this scourge.

At the Energy and Commerce Committee, which I chair, we've held a number of hearings over the last year with testimony from many experts on the frontlines. What we've learned has been eye opening. Federal policies toward opioid addiction in the past have often overemphasized a one-size-fits all law enforcement approach. It's clear through our listening sessions that this is a public health crisis, and that our strategy should reflect the complex dynamic between public health and criminal activity. We now know we cannot simply arrest our way out of this epidemic.


So we've worked to advance bipartisan solutions that address this public health crisis. From helping newborns who are born into addiction, and promoting state prescription drug monitoring programs. Additionally, just last month we passed 11 more bipartisan bills to address this crisis that are now ready for consideration by the full House of Representatives.

Our work will continue. We owe this effort to the past, present, and sadly, future victims of the opioid epidemic - our neighbors, friends, and family, across every part of the country and every demographic group. We owe it to the families of Amy Bousfield and Marissa King. We owe it to all of those in our communities who are suffering from addiction.

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