Reducing Opioid Abuse
The growing crisis of opioid abuse is a blight on our community and on our nation. Such drugs include heroin, but also prescription medicine like oxycodone, codeine, and methadone. Abuse of these drugs killed 28,000 Americans in 2014. The rate of overdoses has at least tripled since the year 2000.
Chicago and the suburbs that make up the Eighth Congressional District are not immune to this problem. There were more than 526 overdose deaths in Cook County and over 43 such deaths in DuPage County in 2015, and they are on the rise in 2016.
Raja recognizes that opioid abuse is a national crisis that requires swift action. While Congress has been working on a comprehensive solution, there are two significant holes in the most recent federal legislation that threaten its usefulness:
Funding: Last year, the Obama Administration requested $1.1 billion for opioid treatment and prevention programs to be administered by the states. Illinois would be eligible for $28 million dollars to help law enforcement and expand treatment programs. This most recent plan that passed Congress in July 2016 contains none of that funding.
Record Keeping: The July 2016 bill also failed to provide for a national record-keeping system that would prevent “doctor-shopping.” Individual states have such monitoring systems, but they don’t actively communicate with one another. This means that an individual can get an opioid prescription in Illinois, then cross the border and get another in Wisconsin, and on and on. Raja believes this is a glaring hole in our efforts to track and limit opioid abuse.
As such, Raja has proposed establishing the National Opioid Safety Fund and Database. This legislation would do two important things: provide a secure and stable funding source for the $1.1 billion the President has requested to fight opioid abuse and create a national Prescription Drug Monitoring Program by turning the existing state-by-state efforts into an interactive, nationwide network. This would end the practice of “doctor-shopping” and help reduce the over-prescribing of opioids. The costs would be paid for by using a portion of savings that taxpayers would enjoy from ending the ban on the negotiation of prescription drugs between the government and pharmaceutical companies under Medicare Part D.
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