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Speeches and Floor Statements

Fighting the Heroin Epidemic on the Front Line

Washington, April 21, 2016 | comments
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First of all, I want to thank everyone for being here today and for taking a leadership role on this critical issue, especially the Task Force Co-Chairs, Representatives Guinta and Kuster.

Obviously, heroin has become a significant problem for both our nation and our local communities.  Frankly, it has become an epidemic.

What is particularly disturbing is the extent to which heroin has infiltrated all parts of our society, and users are becoming a threat not just to themselves, but also to others around them.  It seems like every couple of days there is another story in the media about the dangerous things that people are doing while using heroin, like driving a car.  These stories should serve as a wake-up call to reinforce just how important combatting this epidemic.

In my search for answers to this problem, I’ve talked to local and national drug experts.  As part of that effort, I set up a briefing last November between the Ohio delegation and Michael Botticelli, Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, to discuss efforts to combat the epidemic in Ohio. Ohio has the unfortunate distinction of having 13 out of 16 members of the delegation representing a portion of a county designated as a High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area by the ONDCP.

I’ve also talked to local law enforcement, medical personnel and community leaders about their struggle against this epidemic, and what they need to bolster their efforts on the front line.

Here’s what I’ve concluded from those discussions.  We need to fight a two-front war on heroin and other opioids – both to reduce the supply and to eliminate the demand.

Reducing the supply is a complex issue.  First, since a lot of the heroin is coming into the country through the Mexican border, securing the border is one of the keys to cutting off the supply. In fact, just yesterday the House Judiciary Committee, of which I am a member, passed two important bills aimed at targeting the foreign nationals trafficking drugs into the United States, by ensuring they cannot use the American financial system and making it easier for law enforcement officials to prosecute the drug kingpins.

Two additional keys are strengthening prescription drug monitoring programs and increasing the number of disposal sites for unwanted prescription medications.  These efforts will help keep opioids out of the hands of our children and adolescents.

However, if there is one thing we’ve learned in the struggle to reduce illegal drug use over the years, it’s that it is almost impossible to completely cut off the supply of any drug.

And so we must also take steps to reduce demand for these dangerous drugs.  To accomplish that goal, we need to focus on drug treatment and prevention programs.

And that is what this Task Force’s legislative agenda is intended to do – give local law enforcement and medical personnel the tools and resources they need to fight the battle against heroin and other opioids.

I urge all my colleagues in both the House and the Senate to take a look at this agenda and get behind those bills you can support.  Because, to be frank, the heroin problem is too serious, too significant, and too widespread for Congress not to act.  

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