Barletta Praises President Trump’s Action on Opioid Epidemic

Oct 26, 2017
Press Release
WASHINGTON—Today, President Donald J. Trump declared the opioid epidemic a Nationwide Public Health Emergency.  Since 2000, over 300,000 Americans have died from overdoses involving opioids, and in 2016, more than two million American had an addition to prescription or illegal opioids.  This designation will allow public health agencies to re-direct existing resources to the epidemic, cut bureaucratic red tape in hiring personnel, and expand access to telemedicine services for remote prescribing.
“The opioid epidemic is ravaging our communities, and I’m encouraged by President Trump’s actions to treat this ongoing crisis with the attention and urgency it deserves,” Rep. Lou Barletta (PA-11) said following the announcement.  “This won’t be solved overnight, but we have taken significant steps to get the crisis under control.  As a conferee on the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, we worked across the aisle with colleagues to build bridges for solutions.  It’s been a heartbreaking situation for my constituents.  During some of my opioid forums, tragic personal stories have painted a very dire situation.  Giving the folks who may be struggling with addiction hope for a better tomorrow will save tens of thousands of families from the heartache and loss posed by this tragedy.”
Since President Trump took office:
  • More than $1 billion in funding has been allocated or spent directly addressing the drug addiction and opioid crisis.
  • More than $800 million has been distributed for prevention, treatment, first responders, prescription drug monitoring programs, recovery and other care in communities, inpatient settings, and correctional systems.
  • $254 million in funding has been awarded for high-risk communities, law enforcement, and first responder coordination and work.
The designation of the opioid crisis as a public health emergency, follows President Trump’s declaration of the crisis as a national emergency in August.  Officials said they plan to roll out even more initiatives to address the crisis in the coming days and weeks, which will include the following:
  • Patients in isolated areas like Appalachia will have greater access to opioid treatment through telemedicine and receive prescriptions without seeing a doctor in-person, as is generally required under current law.
  • The Department of Health and Human Services will speed up its hiring process so they have people in place to help states in crisis.
  • The federal government will allow states to temporarily shift the use of federal grant funds to target those with opioid addictions.
  • The Department of Labor will make Dislocated Worker Grants available to those with opioid addictions and others who were dislocated by this health crisis or who have had trouble finding work because of their addiction.
  • The government will spend money from the Public Health Emergency Fund.
  • The Food and Drug Administration is imposing new requirements on the manufacturers of prescription opioids to help reverse the overprescribing that has fueled the crisis.
Barletta was a member of the conference committee that worked out the differences between House and Senate versions of a new, sweeping approach to combating the opioid epidemic – a package which contained his own bill that specifically protects addicted newborns and their caregivers.  The legislation, signed into law during the 114th Congress, combines educational and prevention programs, enhanced treatment, and increased law enforcement efforts to provide a comprehensive approach to the expanding problem of opioid abuse. 
As a conferee on the legislation, Barletta was able to secure the inclusion of provisions his own Infant Plan of Safe Care Improvement Act (H.R. 4843), which had already passed the House on its own by a unanimous, bipartisan vote of 421-to-0.  Specifically, based on Barletta’s legislation, the bill: 
  • Requires the department of Health and Human Services to review and confirm states have put in place policies required under the 1974 Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA).
  • Strengthens protections for infants born with addiction by clarifying the intent of safe care plans. 
  • Improves accountability related to the care of infants and their families by requiring additional information on the incidents of infants born with substance exposure and their care. 
  • Provides states with best practices for developing plans to keep infants and their caregivers healthy and safe.
  • Encourages the use of information made available through other child welfare laws in verifying CAPTA compliance.
In 2015, 2,691 babies received NICU care in Pennsylvania as a result of a mother’s substance abuse, according to the Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council – a 242% increase in 15 years.  Barletta has held multiple heroin and opioid forums in Pennsylvania with state and local officials in an ongoing effort to find solutions. 
The crisis has evolved in recent years, with a surge in overdose deaths driven by the proliferation of illicitly made fentanyl, a highly potent synthetic opioid.  Barletta recently cosponsored H.R. 1057, Synthetics Trafficking and overdose Prevention Act of 2017 (STOP), led by Rep. Patrick Tiberi (OH-12).  The bill aims to prevent the illegal shipment of fentanyl by ensuring that merchandise is subject to reviews by U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
Barletta has also cosponsored H.R. 2851, Stop the Importation and Trafficking of Synthetic Analogues Act of 2017 (SISTA) led by Rep. John Katko (NY-24).  The legislation outlaws 13 synthetic fentanyls that have been identified by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) as an immediate threat to public health.  It also creates a new drug schedule for synthetic fentanyl, provides a streamlined approach for sentencing synthetic drug trafficking in federal courts, and adds to current law an offense for false labeling of controlled substance analogues.
“This epidemic is not over but the federal government is responding with vigor to find a resolution.  It requires persistence to fight the opioid crisis with a broad based strategy,” said Barletta.  “We need state and federal institutions to come together with a coordinated response to treat those suffering from devastating addictions and aid them in recovery, and we need our local communities to help these individuals and their families build better lives.”
Additional information on Barletta’s opioid forums can be found here, here, and here.