Congresswoman Bustos’ Bipartisan Bill to Assist Rural Communities Ravaged by the Opioid Crisis Included in Bipartisan Heroin Task Force’s 2018 Agenda

WASHINGTON –  Today, Congresswoman Cheri Bustos (IL-17) joined fellow members of the Bipartisan Heroin Task Force, which released its legislative agenda for 2018. The agenda includes Bustos’ bipartisan bill, The Addiction Recovery for Rural Communities Act, which seeks to address the lack of resources to combat addiction in rural areas.

“Opioid addiction knows no boundaries,” Congresswoman Bustos said. “The damage that this crisis is doing to communities across our region is heartbreaking, and our small rural towns are getting hit especially hard. Drug-related deaths are 45% higher in rural areas, and they often lack the resources to address this epidemic that other parts of the country have access to. That’s why I introduced the bipartisan Addiction Recovery for Rural Communities Act, and I’m proud that it was included as part of the Heroin Task Force’s Legislative Agenda for 2018.”

Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of death for Americans under the age of 50. This addiction crisis – particularly for heroin, opioids and prescription drugs – has been even more pronounced in rural America, which faces unique challenges when it comes to addressing it: limited treatment options, workforce shortages, and fewer facilities.

The Addiction Recovery for Rural Communities Act would help rural Americans better leverage United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development programs to combat opioid and heroin use. Specifically, the legislation would set aside 20 percent of the USDA’s Distance Learning and Telemedicine Program grant funding for substance abuse treatment. It would also prioritize USDA Community and Facilities Direct Loan and Grant applications focused on substance abuse prevention, treatment and recovery services – which will help incentivize the establishment of new treatment centers. Finally, it will prioritize USDA Rural Health and Safety Education grant funding for applicants seeking to improve education and outreach on opioids and other substance abuse issues.

Full details of the Bipartisan Heroin Task Force’s legislative agenda are available here.

“As we begin the New Year, the Bipartisan Task Force remains even more committed to fighting the opioid epidemic that has ravaged so many communities and families across the country,” Congressman Tom MacArthur, co-chair of the Task Force said. “Our agenda represents the important balance of showing compassion for those suffering with substance abuse, while stopping the flow of drugs into our neighborhoods. It’s a crucial step in this fight.  Since its creation, the Bipartisan Task Force has grown to 100 members and has been able to successfully advocate against drastic cuts to the Office of National Drug Control Policy, and, shape and advance CARA and the 21st Century Cures Act through Congress. We will continue to build on these accomplishments and stand together in our fight against substance abuse.”

“The opioid epidemic has had a serious impact on communities and families throughout New Hampshire, but no corner of the country has been untouched,” Congresswoman Kuster, the founder and co-chair of the Task Force said. “The Bipartisan Heroin Task Force represents 100 Members of Congress, both Republicans and Democrats, who are standing together to take real action to stem the tide of this crisis. Our Task Force has successfully pushed for action in Congress to address the opioid epidemic. The agenda we’re outlining today comprises bipartisan, commonsense solutions that will improve prevention, expand access to treatment and recovery services, and bolster support for law enforcement. I look forward to working with my colleagues to advance these proposals.”

“In 2016, more than 42,000 Americans died from an opioid overdose, including dozens right here in our community,” Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick, vice-chair of the Task Force said. “It’s clear this epidemic is destroying lives and costing our nation precious resources. While our Task Force has taken great strides in increasing awareness of, and providing legislative solutions to, opioid addiction, there is still work to be done. Fighting back against this epidemic requires the clear, bipartisan approach outlined in this agenda; one that responds to the real-world concerns expressed by local lawmakers, community leaders and healthcare professionals across the country who endeavor to tackle this crisis each day.”

“The Bipartisan Heroin Task Force continues to stand together offering commonsense legislative solutions to curb the opioid epidemic because one preventable death is too many,” Congressman Donald Norcross, vice-chair of the Task Force said. “In New Jersey, deaths from heroin and fentanyl overdoses more than tripled in the last five years. That’s tragic and unacceptable. We must invest time, effort and money to save lives. Every delay means we’ll lose another child, grandchild, friend or neighbor to the disease of addiction.”

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