Barletta Holds Roundtable in Somerset, PA on Impact of Opioid Crisis in Appalachia
SOMERSET – Today, Congressman Lou Barletta (PA-11), Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management, held a roundtable to discuss the impact of the opioid crisis in Appalachia. The roundtable focused on the ways in which the opioid epidemic has created barriers to economic growth, as well as possible solutions, including the role of federal economic development agencies. Barletta was joined by Representative Keith Rothfus (PA-12), in whose district the event was held. Participants included representatives from the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) and the Economic Development Administration (EDA), state and local officials, and private sector experts.
“There isn’t a community across America that hasn’t been impacted by the opioid crisis, but it has disproportionally devastated the Appalachian region,” Barletta said. “To battle this epidemic, we must have a strong response that addresses not only access to treatment and prevention methods, but also the impact on economic development and labor force participation. I thank Congressman Rothfus and the other participants for joining me today to help us find real-world solutions that will give communities across Pennsylvania the tools they need to combat the opioid crisis, and I look forward to continuing our important work.”
The ARC is a federal-state governmental agency tasked with providing economic development assistance to a 13-state region. The region includes all of West Virginia and parts of Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Virginia. In 2016, ARC commissioned two reports specifically examining potential health challenges to economic development in Appalachia. The reports found that when examining overdose deaths, the mortality rate among individuals 25 to 44 years old was 70 percent higher in Appalachia than that in non-Appalachian states. This age group includes those in their prime working years, which has created a significant challenge to economic development in the region.
“The opioid crisis has devastated families, neighbors, and citizens in communities across Western Pennsylvania, and has severely impacted our economy, education, criminal justice, and healthcare systems,” said Congressman Rothfus. “I thank the Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management Subcommittee Chairman Lou Barletta for hosting this roundtable in Somerset. He continues to be a leader on this issue. I am a proud cosponsor of his bill, the Treating Barriers to Prosperity Act, which will help direct Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) funds to address opioid-related workforce issues and economic development concerns.”
In March, Barletta introduced H.R. 5294, the Treating Barriers to Prosperity Act of 2018, which would address the impacts of opioid addiction on labor force participation and economic development and provide communities with the tools necessary to find solutions to this epidemic. Specifically, Barletta’s legislation would clarify that funding provided through the ARC can be used to support programs designed to eliminate or 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. Last month, H.R. 5294 passed the U.S. House of Representatives as part of H.R. 6, the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act, which now awaits action in the U.S. Senate.