House Unanimously Passes Barletta Bill to Fight Opioid Crisis

Jun 13, 2018
Press Release

WASHINGTON – Today the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed H.R. 5294, the Treating Barriers to Prosperity Act of 2018, bipartisan legislation introduced by Congressman Lou Barletta (PA-11) that 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.

There isn’t a community across our country that hasn’t been impacted by the opioid epidemic,” Barletta said after passage.  “In 2016 alone, 4,627 Pennsylvanians died due to an opioid overdose.  It is more important than ever for us to work across the aisle to fight this crisis.  The Treating Barriers to Prosperity Act will help communities battling the opioid epidemic recover the lost potential for economic growth, while also giving a leg up to those struggling with addiction by breaking down barriers to employment.  We must have a strong, comprehensive response to the opioid epidemic that addresses not only access to treatment and prevention methods, but also the impact on economic development and access to jobs, and my bill does just that.  I thank my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, especially Representative Dina Titus (D-NV) and Representative Hal Rogers (R-KY), for their work on this important legislation.  By working together, we can continue to help the American people fight back against this epidemic.”

In Appalachia, the opioid related overdose rate is 65 percent higher than the rest of the country,” Rogers said.  “This bill will bolster the Appalachian Regional Commission’s role in combating the opioid epidemic.  Let me thank Chairman Barletta for his great leadership in addressing this problem.  He’s proven he cares for the people that he represents and that the rest of us represent. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.”

H.R. 5249, which was passed out of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee unanimously in April, would clarify that Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) funding 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. 

To watch Barletta’s remarks on H.R. 5294 on the House floor, please click here.

As Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management, Barletta held a hearing in December 2017 to explore possible solutions to address the opioid epidemic through federal economic development programs, such as ARC.  Titled, “The Opioid Epidemic in Appalachia: Addressing Hurdles to Economic Development in the Region,” the hearing examined the impact of the opioid crisis on efforts in Appalachia to spur economic development and growth in distressed communities.
The ARC, which was created in the Appalachian Regional Development Act of 1965, 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.  It is comprised of the governors of the 13 Appalachian states and a federal co-chairman.  While the Commission allocates the level of funding to each state, project proposals must originate in, and be approved by, a state.  Last year, ARC commissioned two reports specifically examining potential health challenges to economic development in Appalachia.  These reports detail the health and economic disparities in Appalachia:

  • The household income in Appalachia is 80 percent of the U.S. average and 17 percent of Appalachians live below the poverty level.
  •  Nationally, the majority of drug overdose deaths involve opioids and, since 1999, the number of overdose deaths involving opioids quadrupled.
  • Between 1999 and 2014, while the overall mortality rate in non-Appalachian states decreased by 10 percent, the overall mortality rate in Appalachia increased by 5 percent.  By 2015, the overall mortality rate in Appalachia was 32 percent higher than non-Appalachian regions of the U.S.
  • In 2015, among 15 to 64 year olds in Appalachia, there were 5,594 overdose deaths – 65 percent higher in Appalachia than the rest of the nation. The disparities were greatest among people 25 to 54.
  • In 2015, 69 percent of the overdose deaths were caused by opioids.
  • In comparing the mortality rates for diseases of despair within states with Appalachian portions and non-Appalachian portions – the differences were stark. For example, in 2015, the mortality rate in Appalachian portions of Maryland were 63 percent higher than in non-Appalachian portions.  In Pennsylvania, the difference was 28 percent and in Kentucky it was 26 percent.

Earlier today, Barletta joined several of his colleagues and House Leadership to share personal stories from their communities back home about the toll the opioid crisis has taken.  Barletta told the story of a six-week-old infant who was accidentally suffocated by his mother when she was high on opioids.  To watch Barletta speak at the press conference, click here.