Common Ground: National Opioid Crisis

06/18/2018 05:16 PM

Everyday more than 115 people in the United States die from an opioid overdose. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates the scourge of addiction in the country is costing $78.5 billion a year. This includes costs incurred for healthcare, lost productivity, addiction treatment and criminal justice involvement.

Here in Kentucky—we know the devastation that this epidemic has caused. On a previous Common Ground we spoke about the efforts of Kentucky officials to try and combat the addiction that continues to take the lives of thousands of Kentuckians. But—lawmakers in Washington are also putting aside their political differences to try and come up with a solution to the increasing epidemic.

The House of Representatives began tackling a package of more than 70 opioid bills last week. One of those bills was sponsored by U.S. Rep. Andy Barr, R-Lexington. The Transitional Housing for Recovery in Viable Environments (THRIVE) Act passed the House on Thursday. The measure would expand evidence based models of transitional housing to help those in recovery maintain their sobriety while gaining valuable skills and job training. The bill would create a pilot program to allocate Section 8 housing choice waivers to non-profits who focus on transitional housing. Rather than administering vouchers through the public housing authority, the vouchers would be given directly to non-profits in regions that are facing the highest rates of opioid-related deaths.

Congressman Barr spoke of the importance of this bill while on the house floor.

“In order to achieve meaningful progress in the fight against opioids in our nation Congress can simply no longer just focus on prevention, enforcement and treatment. We must also begin to implement policies that focus on long-term recovery. Our federal housing programs are an under utilized resource in these efforts.” said Barr.

Of course, this measure did receive push back from some members across the aisle that drew concern from taking section 8 housing vouchers from those who need them. But ultimately, it was able to pass with several Democrats voting for it.

A number of bills sponsored by Democrats passed as well. One bipartisan measure from U.S. Rep. Mark DeSaulnier, D-California, and U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter, R-Georgia, aims at tackling the abuse with help from those who dispense the drugs. The Empowering Pharmacists in the Fight Against Opioids Act requires the Department of Health and Human Services and the D-E-A to produce and hand out materials to pharmacists that provide guidance on when and how to refuse to fill a prescription believed to be fraudulent.

This measure passed unanimously last week.

“Pharmacists are often the last line of defense in the fight against drug abuse. Pharmacists are currently allowed to exercise sound professional judgement when deciding whether a prescription is legitimate and should be filled,” said Rep. DeSaulnier. “This bill would make sure everyone in the prescribing chain from doctors to pharmacists to patients know what pharmacists can do.”

While Democrats in Washington have mostly supported the measures sweeping through the House, many are complaining that these efforts aren’t enough to make a dent in the ever increasing epidemic.

The bipartisan nature could be over this week however—“The Washington Post”: reports Democrats are pushing back against the house republicans plan to repeal a rule known as the Institutions for Mental Disease exclusion rule or I-M-D exclusion which prohibits Medicaid reimbursements for inpatient treatment centers. Democrats argue—only repealing the rule to include reimbursements for those suffering from opiate addiction is discriminatory for those suffering from other addictions.

But the two sides do agree—that the scourge of addiction in the country will not be solved by one solution-but rather a plethora of ideas.

Watch the segment:

Michon Lindstrom

Michon is a producer for Pure Politics. Michon comes to Kentucky from Springfield, Illinois where she served as the statehouse reporter for the NBC affiliate. During her time in the Land of Lincoln she covered the state’s two year budget impasse and the largest school funding overall in Illinois history. Pure Politics airs weeknights at 7 and 11:30 on Spectrum News. Follow Michon on Twitter at @MichonLindstrom or reach her by email at


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