Op-ed by Congressman Lee Zeldin (NY-1).
Long Island, NY - March 5, 2018 - It’s not car accidents. It’s not heart attacks. It’s drug overdoses that are the leading cause of death for Americans under 50. As a whole, our nation has been debilitated by the rise of the heroin and opioid abuse epidemic, and as heroin and opioids flood the streets of our communities on Long Island and across America, the issue continues to become increasingly personal.
Addiction is a devastating disease that takes hold of our loved ones and impacts everyone around that person. This heartbreaking disease is claiming lives, tearing apart families and destroying our communities. I’ve been to way too many wakes as a Member of Congress where a young man or young woman was being buried due to an overdose. Even one young life lost is too many. No parent should ever have to bury their child. No mother or father should ever experience that pain; it’s a deeply gut wrenching moment that has become all too common.
These are our children, and when it comes to our sons and daughters this couldn’t possibly be any more urgent of a crisis. From law enforcement to local elected officials, medical professionals to members of local community groups, everyone has a role to play in eradicating this devastating epidemic.
In Congress, I’ve dedicated myself to working with those on both sides of the aisle to find solutions and achieve positive results. In 2016, I helped the lead the effort to pass the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) into law, which provides $8.3 billion in federal funding to help combat the heroin and opioid abuse epidemic through treatment, education, enforcement and prevention. Furthermore, it provides $3.6 billion to fully fund the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA) and maintains robust funding for the Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant.
As a member of the House Bipartisan Task Force to Combat the Heroin Epidemic, I have supported over 20 pieces of legislation to provide our communities with the tools and resources we need to increase treatment, recovery, education, enforcement and prevention services. I recently voted for over $747 million more to address the heroin and opioid abuse epidemic and, going forward, I will fight to secure more funding for our communities this year and as we craft next year’s budget.
In addition to vital funding, I have also made it my priority to provide Long Island with a greater supply of Naloxone, or Narcan, a life saving medication that is safe and easy to administer and is proven to reverse an overdose within minutes. It is also especially important that once an individual is saved by Narcan that they immediately get the help they need or many of these individuals will go right back to using heroin instantly.
Furthermore, we must crack down on the criminals who unlawfully import and distribute increasingly lethal drugs. Drug traffickers manufacture synthetic drugs and continue to alter molecular structures in an effort to thwart United States drug laws. These synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl, can be as much as 100 times more powerful than painkillers. That’s why I cosponsor the Stop the Importation and Trafficking of Synthetic Analogues Act to provide swifter action to stop the unlawful importation and distribution of ever-evolving synthetic drugs and provide law enforcement with the resources they need.
This is a crisis that must be addressed by every level of government, insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, medical providers, and others, and there is not a minute to spare. In Congress, I am committed to doing everything I can to help those grappling with drug addiction and their families. This a life and death issue that could not possibly be more time sensitive.
Congressman Lee Zeldin represents the First Congressional District of New York and is a member of the Bipartisan Task Force to Combat the Heroin Epidemic in the House of Representatives, which focuses on finding solutions, spreading awareness and increasing educational efforts.