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Maine Reps. Pingree & Golden Urge Congressional Leaders to Make Opioid Epidemic a Top Priority

Today Maine Representatives Chellie Pingree and Jared Golden joined over 60 fellow lawmakers in urging Democratic House leadership to make opioid response a top priority of the 116th Congress. 

“With a Democratic majority in the House once again, we are not short on important issues that deserve our attention after being been neglected for too long. But we can’t afford to let the opioid crisis fall by the wayside—not one bit,” said Congresswoman Pingree. “While Congress has made important progress in sending more resources to states in years past, this epidemic continues to ravage Maine families and communities. We need to redouble our efforts, and I’m proud to join Congressman Golden in urging House leadership to keep this issue at the top of the agenda.”  

“The opioid crisis hurts Mainers every day, all over our state,” said Congressman Golden. “Our communities need help. Congresswoman Pingree and I are calling for increased resources and new solutions to turn the tide on the opioid epidemic in Maine. We’re working hard to provide the treatment, prevention, and enforcement Maine people are counting on to fight this crisis.”

Signed letter is online here. Full text below: 

Dear Leader Pelosi and Whip Hoyer:

As our Congress enters a transitional period and Democrats re-gain the Majority, we must make our top priorities known to our body of government and to the American people. While Congress passed several bills to increase access to treatment and recovery, improve state prescription drug monitoring programs, increase access to medication assisted treatment, support research efforts, and expand availability of naloxone, many of our states are seeing an increase in overdose death rates.

Recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released the final 2017 data from the National Vital Statistics System regarding mortality that tells a dire story of the tragic human toll of this crisis. Between 2016 and 2017, the age-adjusted rate of drug overdose deaths increased by 9.6%. In 2017, there were 70,237 drug overdose deaths. Of that number, 47,600 were opioid overdose deaths. Also, drug overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids like fentanyl increased by 46% between 2016 and 2017.

While this paints a bleak picture of the nation, several states experienced the brunt of the epidemic. According to the CDC, the following states experienced increases in overdose deaths between 2016 and 2017:

  • Ohio increased from 39.1 deaths per 100,000 to 46.3 deaths per 100,000
  • Pennsylvania increased from 37.9 deaths per 100,000 to 44.3 deaths per 100,000
  • Kentucky increased from 33.5 deaths per 100,000 to 37.1 deaths per 100,000
  • West Virginia increased from 52 deaths per 100,000 to 57.8 deaths per 100,000
  • Maine increased from 28.7 deaths per 100,000 to 34.4 deaths per 100,000
  • Indiana increased from 24 deaths per 100,000 to 29.4 deaths per 100,000
  • Delaware increased from 30.8 deaths per 100,000 to 37 deaths per 100,000
  • New Hampshire was the only state that experienced a decrease from 39 deaths per 100,000 in 2016 to 37 deaths per 100,000 in 2017, dropping the state out of the top five from 2016. 

In 2017, overdose death rates in 24 states surpassed the national average of 21.7 per 100,000. Those states and territories, excluding the 7 listed above, include Arizona, Connecticut, Washington, DC, Florida, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Utah, and Vermont.

At a time when our state and local partners are begging for federal assistance to combat the opioid crisis in their communities, Congress must answer the call through increased resources, creative solutions, and with more legislative staff. Dedicated staff across House committees capable of analyzing both the larger federal need and specifics from states and districts is necessary at this point.

People across this country are suffering and need more relief than our local governments can provide. As members from the states impacted by this crisis the most, we see people every day who need our help. We hope that you will take into consideration our proposal to make countering the opioid crisis a top priority for the 116th Congress.


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