Weekly Democratic Address
January 5, 2017
Greg Drugan was a young man from Derry, New Hampshire with dreams of becoming a doctor. He had a family who loved him. But Greg also struggled with a substance use disorder. He was showing signs of depression, and after graduating from college, he was prescribed an opioid-based painkiller following an outpatient surgery. After he was prescribed that opioid, he went from bad to worse.
Greg’s father is a firefighter – responding every day to the havoc that the opioid crisis is wreaking on other families. Greg’s family helped him. He got into recovery, and he worked hard at it. But Greg was one of the tens of thousands of Americans who died from an opioid overdose in 2016.
I’m Senator Maggie Hassan. Tragically, Greg’s story is far too common. In my home state of New Hampshire and all across our nation, families and communities are in the midst of a devastating public health and safety challenge: the opioid crisis. And the rising use of synthetic opioids such as fentanyl is making matters worse – killing people faster and with smaller amounts.
This crisis is taking a massive toll on our communities, on our workforce, and our economy. It does not discriminate, and it impacts people from all walks of life. In 2016 alone, we lost an estimated 64,000 Americans to drug overdose deaths. In both of the last two years, American life expectancy has decreased – in large part because of the opioid crisis.
Behind those numbers are a lost generation. Moms and dads, sons and daughters, who are dying. And these losses result in a ripple effect of pain and suffering for the family, friends, and communities that they have left behind.
This is the story of far too many families. And Congress must come together and put partisan politics aside to get results for our people because lives are truly at stake.
As negotiations continue on a long-term spending bill, Democrats have a long to-do list, with many priorities we need to address. We still are pushing for increased investments in both military and domestic priorities, and one of the many things we have made clear is that there is an urgent need to significantly increase federal funding to address this crisis and make investments in key programs to combat substance use disorders – many of which have bipartisan support.
The President’s Commission on Combatting Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis has offered a strong set of recommendations, including expanding access to treatment, stepping up evidence-based preventative education efforts and law enforcement activities, and improving job opportunities for people in recovery.
Actually, implementing these recommendations requires significant additional funding. That’s why I have worked with many of my fellow senators to introduce legislation that would increase funding for this crisis. But we also need to see this Administration take a leadership role in calling for additional funding, and I urge my colleagues across the aisle to come to the table to get this done.
In New Hampshire, and in states across the nation, families and communities are hoping and calling for a budget agreement to include a significant increase in funding to address [the] fentanyl, heroin, and opioid epidemic. That is why Senate Democrats are fighting for an agreement that includes $25 billion in additional funding to combat this crisis. While it will take far more federal funding to help support those on the front lines and turn the tide of this epidemic, providing an additional $25 billion now is an important step that we must take.
We need to act because people are dying. This is not a partisan issue – and Senate Democrats stand ready and willing to work with our colleagues to fight for progress, to help those struggling get the treatment that they need, and to support all of the dedicated professionals on the front lines of battling this crisis.