Rebuilding our communities and combating the opioid epidemic

Published 8:56 pm Friday, June 8, 2018

With every passing day, our nation’s opioid crisis claims 115 more lives. Each of these victims leaves behind devastated loved ones and a community weakened by their loss.

In Georgia’s Third District specifically, we see the damage created by this epidemic on a daily basis. According to a 2017 study by Georgia’s Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities, the Third District has counties with some of the highest levels of opioid abuse in the state.

The harm created by this misuse is not just limited to an individual’s health. The damage done to the family structure is tragic. Outside the home, the opioid epidemic has a negative impact on local businesses, our children’s education and our entire healthcare system.

In Congress, we are working to combat this crisis. In fact, there are eight different committees in the House of Representatives are working on bipartisan bills to prevent addiction, increase treatment options and outcomes for those in recovery and assist first responders. There is no single legislative fix to end addiction, so we are putting forth dozens of bills designed to tackle the opioid epidemic from all angles. The Committee on Energy and Commerce alone has voted nearly 60 bipartisan bills out of committee.

In the Education and the Workforce Committee, we have crafted a number of bills that would focus on ways we can help families and employers combat opioid addiction both at home and in the workplace.

The Improving the Federal Response to Families Impacted by Substance Use Disorder Act would focus on the impact of opioid addiction at home.

This bill would establish an interagency task force to develop a strategy to help federal agencies respond to the opioid epidemic, prioritizing existing programs that assist infants, children and their families.

No family should have to suffer through addiction alone.

This task force will help target current resources and examine new ways that we can help victims and their loved ones fight back against this disease.

I have also heard from employers across Georgia’s Third District that they need assistance to help combat the effects of opioid abuse on their workforce and their business.

That is why H.R. 5892 would create an advisory committee to counsel the Secretary of Labor on actions the Department of Labor can take to address opioid abuse in the workplace. This advisory committee would make recommendations on appropriate workplace policies, such as early identification strategies and employer substance abuse policies, to help employers consider best approaches to combat opioid misuse in the workplace.

These are just two of the dozens of bipartisan bills that the House will have the opportunity to consider in the coming weeks. While this is undoubtedly the largest legislative initiative to fight opioid addiction that Congress has undertaken, it is just the beginning.

This massive effort reflects the hard work of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to find ways to fight back against the ravages of this disease.

There is no congressional district that has not been touched by opioid addiction. We cannot ignore the growing epidemic of opioid abuse. We must face it head on.

I will continue working with my colleagues to find innovative solutions to ensure everyone has the opportunity to live a full life and seize the American dream.

We must also recognize that there is another aspect of this crisis that goes beyond legislative action.

Every American must show compassion and empathy as individuals and support individuals and their families throughout the recovery process.

The best legislation can never replace a kind, supportive heart and, most importantly, prayer. If we fail to love, support and pray for those suffering from addiction, then we will all fall short.

Drew Ferguson represents Georgia’s third district in U.S. House