Press Releases

Conyers Lauds House Passage of Bill to Help Combat Opioid Epidemic & Save Lives

Conyers: “This Legislation Has the Power to Fortify America’s Fight against the Opioid Abuse Epidemic”

Washington, DC, May 12, 2016

House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (MI-13), today applauded House passage of H.R. 5046, the Comprehensive Opioid Abuse Reduction Act of 2016 which passed by a vote of 413-5. The Comprehensive Opioid Abuse Reduction Act of 2016 authorizes $103 million per year from Fiscal Year 2017 through 2021 for the creation of the Comprehensive Opioid Abuse Grant Program. The program would provide competitive grants to states and local governments to expand services that address the growing rate of opioid abuse and overdose deaths.

“I’m pleased the House passed this important legislation which is intended to help state and local governments pursue a broad-based approach against the current crisis of heroin and opioid abuse,” said Ranking Member Conyers. “The Comprehensive Opioid Abuse Reduction Act of 2016 is a positive step in the right direction to address the opioid epidemic.  I am heartened that the bill embraces innovative approaches to drug abuse, such as treatment alternatives to incarceration, and I look forward to continued work in Congress so that we may soon enact legislation that comprehensively addresses this issue.”

Opioid overdose is now a leading cause of death in the United States. On average, 78 Americans die from an opioid overdose every day. In 2014 alone, more than 1,745 people died from drug overdoses in Michigan.

The Comprehensive Opioid Abuse Reduction Act of 2016 would help states and local governments provide educational services, treatment and prevention programs, alternatives to incarceration, as well as programs to prevent and address juvenile opioid abuse. The legislation would also help expand the use of opioid overdose reversal drugs; and help coordinate services amongst service providers.

Ranking Member Conyers spoke on the House floor in support of the legislation shortly before it passed the House. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:

“I am pleased to rise in support of H.R. 5046, the “Comprehensive Opioid Abuse Reduction Act of 2016.” H.R. 5046 is an important complement to a wide-range of legislation being considered in the House this week that is aimed at combating the devastating impact of drug abuse and addiction that is afflicting communities across our Nation.  

 “We are in the midst of a major public health crisis caused by prescription and opioid abuse.  It is a crisis that affects Americans of all ages, races, and income levels in our cities, suburbs, and rural areas across the United States. 

“Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of death in our Nation. In my state of Michigan, for example, there were 1,745 drug overdose deaths in 2014.  And, more than half of those overdose deaths were attributed to opioids and heroin. In fact, 78 Americans die from an opioid overdose every day.

“I am very familiar with the devastation heroin can exact over people and their communities. Heroin took a deadly toll on Detroit in the 1970’s and is now threatening to take hold of a new generation of addicts.  Armed with lessons learned from that era and the crack epidemic of the 1980’s, we are wiser and more capable. This time, we can and must do more to respond to this crisis.

“Fortunately, a number of states have undertaken various innovative measures to better respond to the rapid increase of individuals addicted to prescription opioids and heroin and to prevent individuals from dying as a result of drug overdose.

“For instance, the Judiciary Committee’s Crime Subcommittee held a hearing last year that examined, among other things, the promising use of the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion approach employed in cities such as Seattle and Santa Fe.

“We have learned that there are successful ways to get addicts to treatment and to provide them with needed services quickly that help to address their addiction and prevent recidivism.  And, we know that evidence-based treatment and treatment alternatives to incarceration work.

“The Comprehensive Opioid Addiction Recovery Program, as authorized by H.R. 5046, would establish a competitive grant program to provide funds to state and local governments to continue and improve their efforts to protect Americans from the dangers of opioid and heroin abuse and to make sure that addicts have access to the services that are provided.

“Funds from the new grant program could be used for the following purposes:

  • Treatment alternatives to incarceration.
  • Collaboration between state criminal justice agencies and state substance abuse systems.
  • For first responders to purchase and be trained in using Naloxone.
  • Medication assisted treatment programs by criminal justice agencies.
  • Investigating the illegal distribution of opioids.
  • Prescription drug monitoring programs.
  • Addressing juvenile opioid abuse.
  • And for comprehensive opioid abuse response programs. 

“Our communities need our assistance in meeting the threat of opioid abuse, and this bill will fund innovative approaches to the problem, such as the LEAD program developed in Seattle that I mentioned earlier.   H.R. 5046 would go a long ways toward providing that critical help.”