Each week until the Va-10 congressional district Democratic Party primary election on June 12, The Blue View will ask all six candidates to respond to a key question on an important issue in 100 words or less.
This week’s question: How should Congress, with you as a member, respond to the opioid crisis?
Answers below from candidates, in alphabetical order:
Forty percent of opioid overdose deaths last year came from prescription opioids, and a recent NBC News article showed a direct correlation between the amount of opioids being prescribed by a doctor and the amount of perks that doctor receives from the pharmaceutical industry. We must ban unqualified pharma reps from doctor’s offices and make unlawful gifts from big pharma to medical professionals. We should legalize marijuana for medical use to provide an alternative pain relief solution that is non habit forming. And we need to ensure that opioid abusers are treated as adicts, no criminals.
Responding appropriately to the opioid crisis begins with treating it as a public health crisis requiring a comprehensive solution. This means addressing the continuum of responsibility for this epidemic, from the pharmaceutical companies to the gangs pushing product on the street. But we can’t arrest our way out of this epidemic, and narrowing our focus to police activity only hurts our ability to fully address our community’s needs. So I support meaningful treatment options, training for medical personnel and first responders, and better training and equipment for local law enforcement.
In 2016, opioid overdoses led to 64,000 deaths in the United States alone. While the causes are complex, there are steps we can take to mitigate this crisis. First, we have to stop treating addiction as a crime and imprisoning those who suffer from the disease of addiction. Next, we must expand the availability of treatment; it should be instantly available to anyone who seeks it. Finally, we must hold accountable drug makers who illegally market, advertise, or distribute opioid products. These actions will not solve the problem, but will be a good first step towards addressing it.
As a former federal prosecutor, I understand first-hand how to effectively tackle this daunting epidemic that annually kills more than 40,000 Americans. Locking up addicts is assuredly not the only answer. First, the president must declare the opioid crisis a “National Emergency” providing necessary funding to begin to address the epidemic. Next, we must adequately fund both preventative education and rehabilitation programs. We need to again empower the DEA to sanction pharmaceutical companies that fail to properly dispense opioids. Finally, we must aggressively prosecute the opioid importers and traffickers in the United States, China and south of our border.
The opioid crisis is a major problem across VA-10. I believe that Congress has not made it enough of a priority, and we must invest in addiction prevention, as well as treatment. As a member of Congress, I would focus on improving access to recovery and treatment centers, especially in the rural areas of the district. I would also invest in education efforts to promote the use of overdose reversal medication, as well as alternative pain management practices. Finally, I would work to ensure that the federal government is devoting appropriate resources to research on the opioid crisis, and ways we can support those who are addicted.
Combating the heroin and opioid crisis ravaging Virginia and the nation has been a top priority for me in the General Assembly. I have passed legislation to increase access to the lifesaving overdose reversal drug Naloxone, combat pill mills, and provide more resources to substance exposed infants and their mothers. Congress needs to get serious about putting funding behind substance abuse service programs, expanding access to treatment options and programs like drug courts, and experimenting with medical marijuana as an alternative for pain management. In Congress, I will continue with the work I started in Richmond on this important issue.
Next week’s question: Should undocumented aliens have a path to citizenship?
Compiled by Stephanie Witt Sedgwick, a member of the Dranesville District Democratic Committee and Virginia Democracy Forward. A former columnist and recipe editor for The Washington Post, she now writes a weekly column for mylittlebird.com.