BAINBRIDGE – Today Congressman Dave Joyce (OH-14) called for Congressional action to combat the recent rise in opioid-related deaths across the country. Joyce wrote to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, urging them to bring his bipartisan bill, the Comprehensive Opioid Program Extension (COPE) Act, to the floor for a vote. He also spoke on the House floor recently to highlight the tragic increase in opioid-related deaths last year and their continued rise during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“As we grapple with navigating the unprecedented challenges caused by this pandemic, the opioid crisis continues to devastate communities across the country,” said Joyce. “In 2018, our nation saw its first decline in drug overdose deaths in nearly 30 years. But that progress is quickly being erased. Last year, fatal drug overdoses hit a record high, accounting for the deaths of 70,980 Americans. More than half of those deaths involved synthetic opioids like fentanyl. These are more than just statistics. These are real people, and their deaths are causing real pain in communities across our nation. This crisis has been breaking apart families and threatening the safety of our communities for far too long and the American people are ready for Democrats and Republicans in Congress to join together to help them stop it.”
In total, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) preliminary 2019 overdose death data shows that 37 states saw fatal drug overdoses increase or remain stable from 2018. This trend is ongoing this year as the coronavirus pandemic continues to impact the mental health and economic security of Americans across the country. An analysis released by the White House found that overdose deaths were up by 11.4% from January to April of this year when compared with the same period in 2019.
As a former prosecutor, Joyce firmly believes that battling the opioid crisis requires an all-of-the-above approach that includes prevention and education efforts, promotes treatment, cracks down on illegal distribution, and enhances resources for first responders and law enforcement. The COPE Act would accomplish that by increasing the authorized resources available to the Department of Justice’s comprehensive opioid abuse grant program by $70 million per year from 2020 through 2024, bringing the total provided annually for these grants to $400,000,000. These grants help local communities battle the opioid epidemic by:
- providing training and resources for first responders on opioid overdose reversal drugs and devices;
- enhancing collaboration between state criminal justice agencies and substance abuse agencies;
- enhancing law enforcement efforts to combat the illegal distribution of opioids;
- and developing or expanding programs to prevent youth opioid abuse, drug take-back initiatives, or for treatment alternatives to incarceration.
You can read Joyce’s full letter here.