Courageous Conversations: Opiate Crisis Leads To Rare Bi-Partisan Cooperation In Washington

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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Bi-partisan cooperation is hard to come by in Washington these days, but lawmakers are getting closer to sending bills to fight opiate addiction to President Obama’s desk.
    
U.S. Rep. Billy Long, R-Springfield, told KOLR10 News almost every lawmaker on Capitol Hill is now convinced their district has a problem with heroin and prescription drug abuse.

“I think a lot of people don’t talk about it,” Long said. “You’ll see an obituary in the paper of a young person, says well they died at home or they died here and there. The family is embarrassed; they don’t want to say that they died of an overdose.”

KOLR10 has labeled its series of Courageous Conversations on heroin as “The Quiet Epidemic.”

In Long’s case, he was not aware of the magnitude of opiate addiction in the 7th district until the issue hit close to home for him.

“I have three friends, three personal longtime, lifetime friends that have lost children in the last year-and-a-half to this problem,” Long said.

In hearings and in conversations with leading professionals like Dr. Phil, Long has been able to learn more about the addiction and the country’s approach to fighting it.

“He [Dr. Phil] said that 5 years ago that he was getting letters from people, saying please help me dr. Phil, help me get off of drugs,” Long said. “Now, five years later he’s getting letters from children that say please help mommy get off drugs.”

Just last week, Long and his House colleagues passed 18 bills to fight opiate addiction with overwhelming bi-partisan majorities.

Some of the highlights include $100 million worth of grants for local treatment programs, a bill to encourage doctors to co-prescribe opioid overdose reversal drugs alongside opiates and a proposal that could allow doctors to more than double the access they can provide to methadone and other medication-assisted treatments.

“We don’t want to be locking people up over opioids, we want to be getting them off the opioids,” Long said. “But it’s not an easy thing to do at all. They are so addictive. If you think 14-hundred times pleasure factor it’s a tough issue.”

Long said by providing grants, Congress is putting its trust in the people closest to the problem.

“Jordan valley and other places know what’s needed in that community and we need to listen to them in Washington D.C. and try and help with whatever we can in a local way,” Long said.

Long said the nation cannot go on without more courageous conversations on opiate addiction.

“We use 80 percent of the all the opioids in the world and only have 5 percent of the population,” Long said. “So it’s a United States of America problem and we need to fix it. We need to help these people. I don’t want any more of my friends to use children over this problem.”  
    
The U.S. Senate has also passed legislation to deal with opiate addiction, and Long said leaders from the two chambers will likely soon form a conference committee to hash out the differences between the two chambers.
 

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