Cicilline Fighting for New Federal Funding to Address Opiate Crisis

Thursday, April 6, 2017

WASHINGTON - U.S. Congressman David N. Cicilline (D-RI), who serves on the Bipartisan Heroin Task Force, is leading the effort in Congress to expand the use of Naloxone by law enforcement agencies.

“In 2015, nearly two-thirds of drug overdose deaths —or 33,091 of 52,404 deaths—involved prescription and synthetic opioids like Vicodin, OxyContin, heroin and fentanyl,” Cicilline wrote in a letter to the House Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies. “Equipping those who are likely to witness an overdose with Naloxone is critical to help saving lives, and, law enforcement officers are often one of the first people on the scene during an emergency.”

According to the Rhode Island Department of Health, at least 31 Rhode Islanders have died of a drug overdose so far in 2017. Last year, 336 Rhode Islanders died of overdoses. When administered early, the antidote Naloxone can reverse the effects of an opiate overdose.

The full text of Cicilline’s letter is embedded below.

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Dear Chairman Culberson and Ranking Member Serrano:

As you work to develop the FY18 Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) Appropriations bill, we request that you include sufficient funding to help equip law enforcement agencies with Naloxone and provide education on its use.

As you know, our country is in the midst of a staggering drug overdose epidemic that is devastating families and communities across the country.  In 2015, nearly two-thirds of drug overdose deaths —or 33,091 of 52,404 deaths—involved prescription and synthetic opioids like Vicodin, OxyContin, heroin and fentanyl.   According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), since 1999, the rate of overdose deaths involving opioids has nearly quadrupled.  Opioids cause death by slowing and eventually stopping a person’s breathing, but there is a window for a lifesaving intervention.  When administered within this window, the drug Naloxone can restore normal breathing within minutes, and may prevent brain injury and death.

In March 2015, then Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell announced an initiative targeting three priority areas to address growing opioid abuse.  Along with improving prescribing practices and expanding access to substance abuse treatment, Secretary Burwell identified expanding the distribution of the Naloxone as one of these priorities. 

In particular, equipping those who are likely to witness an overdose with Naloxone is critical to help saving lives, and, law enforcement officers are often one of the first people on the scene during an emergency.  Recognizing the importance of being able to provide emergency medical services, state law enforcement agencies have implemented Naloxone programs to provide officers with the knowledge and the tools to reverse overdoses. 

To keep these programs running, law enforcement agencies may rely on state and federal funding to afford the cost of Naloxone  kits—which range from $22 to $60 per kit—and the costs of training officers on how to administer Naloxone. 

Therefore, we urge you to consider funding to expand access to Naloxone to law enforcement agencies so they are better equipped with the ability to save lives and to combat the drug overdose crisis in their communities.  We respectfully request full funding for grants as authorized by Public Law 114-198 Section 201(a)(3) to provide training and resources for first responders on carrying and administering an opioid overdose reversal drug or device approved or cleared by the Food and Drug Administration, and purchasing such a drug or device for first responders who have received such training to so carry and administer.

Thank you for your work on the FY18 Commerce-Justice-Science Appropriations bill, and for your consideration of our requests.

Sincerely,

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