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Congressman Diane Black

Representing the 6th District of Tennessee


Rep. Black Makes Heartfelt Remarks on Opioid Crisis, Praises Work of Local Anti-Drug Coalition

May 12, 2016
Press Release

To watch Congressman Black’s remarks on the House floor, click HERE or the image above

Washington, D.C. – Congressman Diane Black (R-TN-06), a registered nurse and member of the Ways and Means Health Subcommittee, spoke on the House floor today in support of the 18 bills that the House of Representatives has passed or is expected to pass before the end of the week related to combating opioid abuse. A registered nurse by background, Congressman Black previously met with the Smith County Drug Prevention Coalition in April and, earlier this year, spoke at a forum on opioid abuse in Nashville hosted by Axial Healthcare. A transcript of Rep. Black’s remarks on the House floor is provided below. To watch a video, click here.

Mr. Speaker, I rise today in strong support of the action that the House is taking this week to combat the crisis of opioid abuse.

As a registered nurse, I have seen the grim reality of this addiction from all sides. I have witnessed its grip on families – the way it slowly steals the life behind its victims’ eyes, and how what was thought to be a "quick fix" can easily spiral into a deadly dependence.

We all know that addiction is an equal opportunity destroyer of potential. It does not care about your race, gender, income or political party. Therefore, the solutions we offer in Congress must also reach across artificial boundaries to help all who are touched by this epidemic get back on their feet.

I’m proud that, all told, the House will take up 18 bills this week aimed at combatting opioid abuse

Among these solutions is a bill creating an inter-agency task force to ensure that health care professionals have up-to-date guidelines and best practices for treating patients with acute and chronic pain. This is critically important as 17 percent of opioid users today get their high from medications legally prescribed to them by a doctor.

The House also passed legislation making it safer for veterans to seek pain management care – Specifically, the bill would require VA employees who prescribe opioids to receive education and training on pain management, while also calling for a government watchdog report on VA opioid use and treatment.

Importantly for me as a nurse, Congress has additionally taken steps to protect newborns from exposure to addictive opiate drugs in the womb. This includes legislation to reauthorize residential treatment grant programs for pregnant and postpartum women who have substance abuse problems, as well as a bill calling for a government study on the prevalence of neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) and offering recommendations to improve access to treatment.

While these bills offer an important starting point, Congress cannot singlehandedly legislate away the threat of opioid abuse. It takes willing partners in our community to help raise awareness and intervene before addiction sets in. I was reminded of this recently when I met with the Smith County Drug Prevention Coalition back in my district.

This organization is going into schools to arm our young people with the facts about drug abuse. They are providing drop-boxes in public spaces so citizens can safely dispose unused medication, and they are working with law enforcement to ensure that their efforts are as effective as possible. We can never underestimate the importance of nonprofits and volunteer-supported organizations like this.

Mr. Speaker, opioid addicts are not bad people trying to be good, they are sick people trying to get well. When we come together with an eye on solutions and an emphasis on personal responsibility, we can find victory over this preventable disease and help those who are hurting reassemble their lives and regain their pursuit of the American dream.

I yield back the balance of my time.