Across America, opioids are ripping apart communities and families. After coming to Congress, my bipartisan freshman class made the decision to make addiction a primary focus, because combating the opioid crisis is one issue that all lawmakers can agree on. Addiction impacts families from all walks of life and I believe it is our government’s responsibility to start finding solutions. Over the past two years, the Administration has secured more than $6 billion to fight opioid abuse in our communities – but more must be done.
We also need to cut off opioid abuse at the source. In 2018, the Department of Homeland Security seized nearly 5,000 pounds of fentanyl. That’s enough to kill every American four times over. When I traveled to the southern border it was obvious many of our drug-related issues begin at that crossing. In fact, seizures of fentanyl are up 265 percent over the last two years. It’s not just coming from Mexico either – it’s coming from China as well. China has failed to live up to their end of the bargain to stop the trafficking of fentanyl to the United States. Because of abuses by foreign actors, I signed onto the Fentanyl Sanctions Act, which imposes sanctions on foreign traffickers of illicit opioids, such as meth.
According to the Center for Disease Control, more than 48,000 people died from an opioid overdose from August 2017 to August 2018. Our providers have made great strides to prescribe alternative types of treatment for pain management, but there is more work to be done. That is why I cosponsored the Overdose Prevention and Patient Safety Act, which gives treatment providers the necessary access to substance abuse patients’ medical records in order to assess risks and provide adequate and evidence-based care for patients.
This week, I visited Piya Mani Otipi, the Rosebud Sioux Tribe Drug Treatment Center, to learn about their adult and youth addiction treatment programs. The death rate of Native Americans from opioid and meth overdoses is the highest of any racial demographic, highlighting the specific challenges Native American communities face to combat opioid and meth addiction. These statistics are deeply troubling, and we need to continue to partner with treatment centers, like the one in Rosebud, to find solutions. I’m encouraged the Administration is working with state and tribal leadership across the country to address the opioid crisis by providing $1.5 billion in State Opioid Response grants.
As I travel throughout our state, there is not one day that goes by where I don’t learn of another tragic, heartbreaking story of a family victimized by addiction. Often, these stories are about children – children not yet old enough to go to college, or even drive a car – whose parents are left with the unimaginable pain an overdose leaves behind. I feel an obligation to ensure our nation’s future leaders aren’t left behind in our fight against the opioid epidemic, so I worked with my colleague on the other side of the aisle, Rep. David Trone of Maryland, to introduce the Campus Prevention and Recovery Services for Students Act. This bill would allow colleges and universities to implement evidence-based programs to prevent alcohol and substance misuse on campus and support those with substance use disorders. Our colleges should have the tools necessary to stop drug abuse before it starts.
Opioid abuse and addiction isn’t just a South Dakota issue – it’s an American issue. I hope you’ll join me in this fight.