WASHINGTON, DC -- Last year in Kentucky, drug-related deaths spiked again with 1,565 fatal overdoses. Tragically, one person dies every seven minutes, with the death toll reaching a historic high in 2017 at more than 72,000 fatal overdoses in America. In an effort to turn the tide on this deadly epidemic, the U.S. House passed sweeping legislation this week after extensive negotiations with the Senate. The resulting package provides the most significant bipartisan measures in the nation's history to combat the drug crisis. The Substance Use-Disorder Prevention that Promotes Opioid Recovery and Treatment (SUPPORT) for Patients and Communities Act, H.R. 6 passed with overwhelming bipartisan support. Two bills championed by Congressman Rogers were included in the package.
The legislation combats illicit and synthetic drugs coming across our borders, encourages the development of new non-addictive painkillers, improves prescription drug monitoring programs, removes outdated barriers that hamper access to care, addresses the effects of the crisis on children and families, and establishes innovative opioid recovery programs.
"Nearly every family in Southern and Eastern Kentucky has been impacted by the heartbreaking drug abuse epidemic and we simply can't relent. We must strengthen our efforts through funding and support for community leaders who are on the front lines of this crisis in our hospital emergency departments, in our treatment facilities, in our educational institutions and beyond," said Rogers, co-founding co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on Prescription Drug Abuse. "This legislation also reflects the successful comprehensive model of Operation UNITE on a national scale, focusing on education, treatment and law enforcement."
Among the many provisions included in H.R. 6, Congressman Rogers' Substance Use Disorder Workforce Loan Repayment Act offers student loan repayment of up to $250,000 for medical professionals who agree to work as a substance use disorder treatment professional in areas most in need of their services. Furthermore, the Treating Barriers to Prosperity Act will expand 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.
The legislation includes Medicaid, Medicare and public health reform to help patients and families get the help they need. It also reauthorizes anti-meth and anti-heroin task forces at the Department of Justice, which have been important tools against drug trafficking in the Appalachian region.
Earlier this week, Congress approved a federal funding package for fiscal year 2019 that included a record $6.7 billion to fight, treat, and stop substance abuse.
In March, Congress also approved $4 billion in federal funding to address the nation's deadly drug abuse epidemic in 2018.
The SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act will move on to the White House for President Trump's signature after final approval in the Senate.
For a full summary of H.R. 6, click here.