COLUMN: Bipartisan Heroin Task Force fighting opioid abuse at national level
The opioid crisis continues to afflict our nation, and Colorado has not been immune — far from it. In fact, every year that goes by brings more and more tragic stories of those who are suffering or have lost their battles to drug use.
The Denver Post recently reported an 80 percent jump in newborns going through opioid withdrawal. The article went on to state that in some parts of Colorado, the rate of addicted newborns is actually much higher. The Parkview Medical Center in Pueblo, which is located in Colorado's 3rd District, has seen a rapid spike in newborns addicted to opioids. Back in August, I toured Parkview Hospital and witnessed this tragedy firsthand. To see opioids harm the most innocent was heartbreaking.
This past year, I spent a lot of time meeting with folks recovering from opioid addiction and health care officials desperately trying to cure the addicted, as well as law enforcement and first responders looking for effective ways to address this crisis. My meetings with these folks have led me to conclude that while a lot of good work has been done on this issue, we still have a long fight ahead of us in the battle against opioid addiction, and more must be done to confront this epidemic.
Opioid abuse is an issue that is in the forefront of my mind, and thankfully my colleagues in Congress and this presidential administration share the commitment to tackling addiction. In 2018, we have hit the ground running as we continue to work to pass legislation to combat the epidemic.
A few months ago, President Donald Trump rightfully declared the opioid crisis a Public Health Emergency. However, this Public Health Emergency expired on Jan. 23, 2018, which is why in a letter to Trump, with my colleagues on the Bipartisan Heroin Task Force, I urged the president to renew this declaration.
Fortunately, the administration listened and the declaration was extended for another 90 days. In addition to extending the Public Health Emergency, we also asked Trump to work with Congress in securing additional funding so state and local officials can implement prevention and recovery programs that work best for their communities.
Securing the funding needed for state and local programs is incredibly important, but it is just as critical that we prevent dangerous drugs from crossing our borders in the first place. Unfortunately, when drugs do cross the border, Colorado is one of the first states they travel through, finding their way into our homes, schools and communities.
Last year, I voted for legislation called the INTERDICT Act, which will help U.S. Customs and Border Protection better detect the transport of illegal synthetic opioids across U.S. borders. At the beginning of this year, Trump signed this legislation into law, officially putting much-needed protections in place.
This year, I will be holding more meetings and roundtables with Coloradans to continue our work in solving this crisis. I believe that when addressing the complex issues facing our nation, the people and communities affected should always have a voice at the table. We have a long fight ahead of us, but I am optimistic that by working together, we can make a positive and long-lasting impact on our state and nation.