According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, nearly 90 Americans die each day after overdosing on opioids. Addiction to opioids has become a serious public health issue in the U.S., creating an economic burden of more than $75.8 billion each year. Rep. Alex Mooney (R-West Virginia) joins Robert Traynham to discuss the PROP Act (Promoting Responsible Opioid Prescribing Act). The discussion continues in part 2 of Combatting Opioid Abuse.
Interview recorded September 6, 2017.
Read a partial transcript of this interview below:
Traynham: According to the Department of Health and Human Services, in 2015, more than 12 million people misused prescription opioids. The opioid epidemic in our nation has reached a crisis level. Hello, everyone, and welcome to "Comcast Newsmakers." I?m Robert Traynham, and joining me is Congressman Alex Mooney. He?s a Republican from West Virginia. Congressman, welcome to the program.
Mooney: Thank you.
Traynham: It sounds like and it feels like we are at epidemic levels when it comes to the opioid situation. And what?s interesting, Congressman -- You know this better than anyone else -- is that it knows no class, no race, no gender, rich or poor. Tell us about you?re working on in your district.
Mooney: Well, sure. It?s a mixture of enforcement and prevention and treatment. It also knows no boundaries in geography. I mean, this issue, I fight it in West Virginia, but my colleagues on both sides of the aisle -- Republicans and Democrats from rural areas like mine to big cities -- have the same issues of drug addiction. It?s everywhere. And it?s something we have to come together, I think, throw everything at it and try to fight this. So preventions part of it, but also enforcement and treatment.
Traynham: Congressman, I read a few hours ago that you introduced about 15 bills...
Mooney: That?s right.
Traynham: ...almost a comprehensive package, if you will, from soup to nuts, last year...
Mooney: That?s right.
Traynham: ...to kind of address this issue, again, from top to bottom. Walk us through what you?re trying to accomplish.
Mooney: Well, sure. And those were all bipartisan bills, by the way. I?ve sponsored or co-sponsored 15 bills. We have a bipartisan caucus with a friend from New Hampshire who?s working on that. So, much of it is to make sure doctors aren?t pushed to prescribe drugs for folks who don?t really need it. And that was what my prime bill had did. That became law last year. A lot of doctors felt they would be penalized if someone didn?t get painkillers they wanted. A lot of folks were abusing painkillers. So my bill relieved doctors of the pressure, any penalties for not prescribing painkillers. That was just one part of it. Other bills had to do with treating children, babies who were born with drug addictions in their system, sadly. Enforcement -- Part of my state, the corridor from Baltimore came in '81, and there was a lot of drugs being trafficked in that corridor. We didn?t have enough enforcement there, so we had to beef up the enforcement. That?s part of it -- to catch the big drug dealers to slow this down.
Traynham: Congressman, the President most recently said this is a national crisis. He kind of raised the awareness level, if you will. What does that mean when the President says it, which is important to raise this and put it on everyone?s radar screens, but what does that mean in terms of people on the ground, law enforcement, and so forth?
Mooney: Well, we all have to fight this battle. One of the issues I learned when I was doing drug-related town hall meetings to see what was going on -- It was brought to my attention that when the police come in and the Department of Social Services, oftentimes there are children involved, you know, 2-year-olds, 5-year-old children. And there weren?t enough foster care homes for that. That?s not really a problem the government can solve. The nation, the people of this country have to volunteer in those cases to watch children for a few days or a few weeks or a few months while the person who is addicted can get treatment. And oftentimes, frankly, you have to arrest and threaten to prosecute folks, and they?ve got to be given a choice between a rock and a hard place. "Either you go to jail, or you go get treatment and get off the drugs. What?s your choice?