U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan announced an anti-drug plan Monday to address the growing opioid crisis. According to the Manatee County Republican, the bill will be introduced in the U.S. House later this week.
The Opioid Emergency Response Act, is a seven-point plan built around ideas already introduced in Congress that adds incentives to use alternatives to addictive prescription opioids.
Buchanan spokeswoman Sally Dionne explained that the bill is a revamped effort to respond to the current epidemic.
“The opioid epidemic is harming Suncoast families, especially families in Manatee and Sarasota counties,” Dionne said. “Last year, 42,000 Americans died from opioid overdoses, including almost 6,000 Floridians.”
“(The act) is comprehensive legislation,” Dionne said. “It seeks to build upon bipartisan efforts in Congress to establish the much needed reform and invest additional resources to most effectively respond to the current crisis.”
The bill includes programs to prevent and treat addiction, aids law enforcement in keeping drugs off the streets and researches safer, alternative treatments.
Figures show drug overdoses are now the leading cause of death among Americans under the age of 50. Buchanan has been working on this issue for the past eight years.
“It all started for (Buchanan) when he met two mothers from our district who lost their teenage sons to opioid addiction,” Dionne said. “He has been working, first, by trying to reclassify the drug to make it harder to prescribe, and we were grateful that the federal government has done that. He worked on bipartisan legislation to increase federal funding to come to the states and worked to make sure that our district in Florida got their fair share of those funds.”
Buchanan pulled together six bills already introduced in Congress and created a seventh bill that provides incentives for using alternatives to prescription opioids. The bill has already picked up backing from other groups.
“A broad coalition of community healthcare providers, families, law enforcement and treatment facilities have endorsed this bill, as well as the business community because they recognize what an important issue this is,” Dionne said.