Opioid declaration is overdue

Published 9:48 am Friday, August 25, 2017

Ohioans don’t need a declaration to tell them the opioid crisis is a national emergency. Many of them are living this nightmare every day.

This month, after the White House Commission on Combatting Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis unveiled formal recommendations to address the opioid epidemic, President Trump finally announced he would declare the opioid crisis a “national emergency.”

While the President’s declaration is a step in the right direction, there’s more work to be done here.

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By declaring the opioid epidemic a national emergency, the Trump Administration can now take important steps that I’ve called for to address the crisis, many of which are recommended by the president’s commission.

In May, I introduced bipartisan legislation with Sen. Portman that would eliminate the 16 bed cap on the number of beds substance abuse treatment facilities are allowed to cover under Medicaid. The Commission report revealed that this is one of the quickest ways to get people into treatment. And at roundtables I’ve held around Ohio, I’ve heard from local experts who agree.

The report also includes prevention recommendations to increase access to medication-assisted treatment (MAT) and naloxone, an overdose reversal drug. I am continuing to call on the Trump Administration to boost funding, so that our first responders can maintain their supply.

And finally, I couldn’t agree more with report recommendations to provide more resources to Customs and Border Patrol to keep the deadly synthetic opioid fentanyl out of the U.S. I’ve teamed up with Sen. Portman on a pair of bills that would do just that. The INTERDICT Act, which I introduced, would provide Custom and Border agents with additional resources to screen for fentanyl safely and effectively, and Sen. Portman’s STOP Act, which I support, would help detect the drug.

Recently I met with Chuck Rosenberg, Acting Administrator at the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), about reducing the amount of opioid pills allowed to be manufactured and sold in the United States. After our meeting, the DEA announced a proposal to reduce production of prescription opioids by 20 percent.

Again, another step in the right direction.

Our law enforcement officers are doing the best that they can, but they’ve told me we cannot arrest our way out of this problem. We all need to work together to keep these drugs out of our communities.

I’m glad President Trump’s commission is recommending steps to address this crisis. The president needs to follow through with the actions to get this epidemic that is ravaging Ohio communities under control.


Sherrod Brown is a Democrat and the senior U.S. senator representing Ohio. His Washington, D.C. office can be reached at 202-224-2315.