Long Awaited Action Arriving in Force to Combat Heroin & Opioid Crisis
The growing heroin and opioid crisis has especially hit home here in Suffolk County. According to the 2015 New York State Opioid Poisoning Overdose and Prevention Report, out of all 62 counties in New York, Suffolk County has been hit the hardest by the rise in heroin and opioid abuse. The report found that our county had the highest number of heroin-related overdose deaths out of any county in New York State. As a member of the Bipartisan Task Force to Combat the Heroin Epidemic, I’ve spoken with affected families directly. Addiction is a truly devastating disease that shatters lives, families and communities. It’s a disease that only continues to spread at rapid rates, and more can and must be done to counteract the damage it has done, and prevent its rapid advancement.
Working closely with our local community, I’ve been pursuing a more localized solution to address this crisis. Hosting multiple drug task force round tables here in Suffolk, I’ve been able to bring together local elected officials, law enforcement, health professionals, community groups, parents, concerned residents and those in recovery, to discuss various ways that we can combat this epidemic. Over the past year, working both with local residents and my colleagues in Congress, I have been pushing to advance legislation in the House of Representatives that would help provide us with the resources we need to end the growing drug epidemic here on Long Island.
Just last week, joined by our local community, I was proud to announce that there is progress being made to pass several bills that will focus on improving and increasing access to treatment, enforcement, and education. The House of Representatives is now passing several important proposals aimed at addressing the growing heroin and opioid crisis.
In a package of over a dozen bills, there are many comprehensive bills now being passed to address this crisis. While I have been dedicating the most amount of my time advocating for passage of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery (CARA) Act (H.R. 953), many other important proposals are also moving forward. One other bill that I cosponsor, H.R. 4641, would improve the guidelines for prescribing opioids and pain medication by creating a federal inter-agency and stakeholder task force that would review, modify and update best practices for pain management and prescribing pain medication. While there are many legitimate reasons and needs for some to be treated with pain medication, these highly addictive pills pose a serious risk. This critical bill would help ensure that all parties, from prescribers to patients, have access to the most up-to-date information, so that lawful prescription use does not become addicting. Just a few of the other bills include the Examining Opioid Treatment Infrastructure Act of 2016 (H.R. 4982), which would require Congress receive a report on substance abuse treatment availability and infrastructure needs in the U.S., and legislation that would task a federal agency to create a plan on how to deal with the opioid and heroin epidemic (H.R. 4976). Legislation is passing to help stop the flow of illegal narcotics into our country, to keep drugs out of our communities and off our streets, such as legislation to help law enforcement officials identify and target drug traffickers (H.R. 3380), and allow for easier prosecution of these criminals (H.R. 4985).
There is not one piece of legislation that will completely solve this overwhelming crisis, but finally Congress is taking a big step forward in the fight against drug abuse. We must always do everything we can to provide our local communities with the resources necessary to help stop and prevent drug abuse through treatment, enforcement, and education, which is why I will continue pushing these efforts in the House.
Congressman Lee Zeldin represents the First Congressional District of New York. The Congressman serves as a member of the Bipartisan Task Force to Combat the Heroin Epidemic in the House of Representatives, which focuses on finding solutions to this crisis, spreading awareness and increasing educational efforts.