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WASHINGTON, DC -- Today, the U.S. House of Representatives approved the Treating Barriers to Prosperity Act, H.R. 5294, expanding the Appalachian Regional Commission's (ARC) efforts to combat the deadly drug abuse epidemic in the Appalachian region, where the opioid-related overdose rate is 65% higher than the rest of the nation. Congressman Rogers was an original co-sponsor of the measure.

In December, Operation UNITE CEO and President, Nancy Hale, testified before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee during a hearing entitled, The Opioid Epidemic in Appalachia: Addressing Hurdles to Economic Development in the Region. Rogers introduced Hale to the congressional panel.

Congressman Rogers gave the following remarks on the House Floor today before the bill was passed with unanimous support:

"Thank you, Mr. Chairman. It gives me great pleasure to rise in support of H.R. 5294, the Treating Barriers to Prosperity Act.

"All of us are painfully aware of the devastating toll taken by opioid addiction and abuse in every corner of our great country. While this epidemic is truly national in its scope today, it actually began to quietly overtake small communities in Appalachia over a decade ago.

"Our hills were flooded with painkillers, our hospitals flooded with patients, our churches flooded with helpless parents crying out for help. Our rural towns simply did not have the capacity to handle this monstrous problem. Today, given the unique challenges confronting Appalachia, the opioid-related overdose rate is 65% higher than in the rest of the nation.

"But the people of Appalachia are resilient, and they are problem solvers. They have taken important strides to combat this problem holistically. Operation UNITE in my district is perhaps the leading national example – Unlawful Narcotics Investigations, Treatment and Education: a three-pronged approach to tackle opioid abuse.

"I was heartened and grateful when Chairman Barletta invited Operation UNITE’s CEO, Nancy Hale, to testify before his subcommittee about the unique challenges UNITE confronts in Southern and Eastern Kentucky and the creative solutions they’ve employed to beat back against this scourge.

"Today, I remain grateful for his leadership in shepherding H.R. 5294 to the House floor. This bill will bolster the Appalachian Regional Commission’s role in combatting the opioid epidemic.

"ARC has always been a valued partner in our fight, but this legislation clarifies that the Commission can and should make targeted investments to reduce barriers to workforce development; attract and retain healthcare services, businesses, and workers; and develop relevant infrastructure, including broadband which can be used for telemedicine treatment.

"These investments are critical for my district and the entire Appalachian region, and I urge your support. Thank you, and I yield back."

The bill now moves to the U.S. Senate for consideration. 

House Floor Speech supporting HR 5294