Rhode Island has been hit hard by the opioid overdose epidemic. According to the latest assessment from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Rhode Island has the ninth highest drug overdose death rate of any state. This public health crisis is affecting Rhode Islanders of all backgrounds and in every community across the state.
The good news is that Congress has recognized the need to tackle this issue. In fact, the House recently passed my bill to better combat trafficking of fentanyl, an extremely powerful synthetic opioid that is responsible for many of the deaths in our state. My bipartisan legislation establishes a Joint Task Force at the Department of Homeland Security to increase coordination within the Department and with public and private sector partners in order to stop the inflow of opioids before they cross our border.
Keeping Chinese-made fentanyl out of the country is critical, but ultimately, battling the epidemic will require a multi-pronged approach that also emphasizes recovery and treatment programs. Congress recently changed a key federal opioid funding allocation formula to set aside additional funding for states that have been hardest hit. As a result of this change, Senator Reed, Senator Whitehouse, Congressman Cicilline, and I were able to announce an increase of over $10 million in federal funding for Rhode Island’s efforts to combat the epidemic. Specifically, the funds will be used to increase access to medication-assisted treatment and to support other recovery programs for those battling opioid addiction.
There is a lot of work left to do before we can put this public health crisis behind us. Until then, fighting for the necessary resources and developing the right policy solutions to protect our communities will remain one of my top priorities.
Keep up with all of my efforts to combat the opioid overdose epidemic and many other issues on my website and by following me on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Instagram.