In 2018, our nation lost more than 68,500 family, friends and neighbors to the devastating disease of addiction, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
While that year marked the first drop in overdose deaths in the U.S. in almost 30 years, we are still facing a crisis that continues to overwhelm our communities. In fact, Americans are dying from this illness at a faster rate than they did at the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic that sparked a national movement to address it. This tremendous loss of life is so staggering that overdose deaths contributed to the overall reduction of Americans life expectancy.
Despite the horror and scope of this epidemic, just 1 in 5 individuals suffering with Substance Use Disorder is receiving the treatment they need.
We have to demand better. This disease of despair deserves a response rooted in hope.
We must broaden our focus from arrests and incarceration alone to include pillars of prevention, treatment and recovery. And we must transform the way we think and talk about this issue, applying science and practical solutions we know can work to intervene for individuals who find themselves on a path to addiction and those already in crisis, and to support these individuals and their families in finding a path of prevention or recovery.
A History of Action
Rep. Tonko has a substantial record of work to address the growing opioid epidemic sweeping the United States and is leading the charge in to expand access to Substance Use Disorder (SUD) treatment.
H.R.2482: Mainstreaming Addiction Treatment Act of 2019 would end an outdated redundancy in federal law that restricts health providers from prescribing buprenorphine, a proven treatment that has helped countless Americans suffering with a substance use disorder. Providers can already prescribe the drug for pain management but are forced to go through a burdensome process to apply for a special DEA waiver to prescribe it to treat addiction.
H.R.1329: Medicaid Reentry Act allows Medicaid payment for medical services furnished to an incarcerated individual during the 30-day period preceding the individual's release.
Individuals reentering society after incarceration are some 129 times more likely to die of a drug overdose in the first two weeks after release vs. the general population. Former inmates are uniquely vulnerable due to reduced physiological tolerance for opioids, lack of effective addiction treatment options while incarcerated and poor care transitions back into the community.
H.R.3925: Reducing Barriers to Substance Use Treatment Act would prohibit States receiving Federal medical assistance for medication-assisted treatment under Medicaid from imposing utilization control policies or procedures with respect to such treatment, and for other purposes.
Rep. Tonko also co-sponsors:
Paul W. Collins, a retired firefighter with a 27 year career at the Troy Fire Department, reached out to ask the Congressman to please share with the President his family's painful story of loss at the hands of substance use disorder. Collins lost his daughter Ashley to a drug overdose less than a year earlier. He provided references to several photos on social media including one of him holding a sign and wearing his firefighting helmet at a political rally in Albany supporting then-candidate Trump. The Congressman printed the photo and showed it to the President as he was walking up to the dais to deliver his State of the Union.
Click here to read Rep. Tonko's follow-up letter to the President
New Choices Recovery Center has been designated as an OASAS Center of Treatment Innovation (COTI). The COTI Project seeks to increase access to treatment and recovery services in underserved communities within Schenectady, Saratoga and Montgomery counties by utilizing peer supports, clinical services and emerging technology to support individuals with opioid use disorder toward recovery closer to home.
Letter to Constituents on Addiction & Recovery, January 22, 2018
On January 22nd, Rep. Tonko sent a constituent letter highlighting the issue, his priorities and the importance of taking immediate and meaningful action that will save lives and help prevent the epidemic from continuing to accelerate. A full page scan of the letter can be found here.