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Congressman Joe Courtney

Representing the 2nd District of Connecticut

Courtney Leads Congressional Letter to President Obama Asking Him to Designate Opioid Epidemic a National Emergency

February 12, 2016
Press Release
Letter sent today was signed by more than 60 members of Congress

WASHINGTON, D.C. —Today, Congressman Joe Courtney (CT-02) sent a letter signed by more than 60 members of the House of Representatives, including all five Connecticut House members, calling on President Obama to declare the opioid and heroin abuse epidemic a national health emergency and to designate emergency funds to assist states with addressing this matter.

“According to the Centers for Disease Control, in 2014 1.9 million people had a prescription use disorder and nearly 600,000 had a heroin use disorder,” wrote the members. “That year alone, we lost over 27,000 to opioid-related and heroin overdoses. This averages to 74 people dying each day from an overdose of prescription painkillers or heroin in the United States.  As such, we urge you to take immediate action to treat this epidemic like the true crisis it has become.

“Losing 74 Americans every single day to this epidemic is unacceptable. As such, we strongly encourage you to declare the opioid and heroin epidemic a crisis immediately, and to look into a mechanism by which to make emergency funds available to states to combat the issue today.  We stand ready to support your efforts to combat the epidemic that so many Americans are already fighting every day. We request your immediate attention to this serious matter and look forward to your response.”

The full text of the letter is below:

February 12, 2016

The Honorable Barack Obama

President of the United States

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Ave., NW

Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear President Obama:

We write to express our grave concern regarding the opioid and heroin crisis that currently has the country, and our districts in its grips. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control, in 2014 1.9 million people had a prescription use disorder and nearly 600,000 had a heroin use disorder.  That year alone, we lost over 27,000 to opioid-related and heroin overdoses. This averages to 74 people dying each day from an overdose of prescription painkillers or heroin in the United States.  As such, we urge you to take immediate action to treat this epidemic like the true crisis it has become. 

Though we support and applaud the Administration’s attention to this issue through your FY 2017 budget request of over $1.1 billion to combat the issue, families in our states are suffering now and need immediate help. As such, we have suggested a number of options we hope that you and your Administration will look into as a way to get emergency funds to those in need as soon as possible.

First, we urge the Secretary of Health and Human Services to exert the authority granted to her to take immediate action to declare the opioid/heroin epidemic a Public Health Emergency.  Also, we encourage the Secretary, under authority granted under Section 311 of the PHSA, to work with states and localities to prevent and control this epidemic and to implement plans activating HHS resources to control the epidemic.  We would also suggest that the Secretary utilize the authority granted to her under Section 301 of the PHSA for HHS to provide assistance to conduct investigations, among other things, into the causes, prevention, and control of diseases. 

Second, we ask that you and the Secretary urge Congress to fund the Public Health Emergency fund specifically to fight this epidemic, for example, via HR 4525, the Public Health Emergency Preparedness Act, introduced this week by Rep. DeLauro.  And we also ask that, like you have done with the Zika virus, you call on Congress to pass emergency supplemental appropriations legislation, such as the Shaheen/Courtney legislation, S.2423/HR 4447, the Opioid and Heroin Epidemic Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act, to address the issue.

Third, we suggest that the Administration further explore utilizing SAMHSA Emergency Response Grants (SERG grants), which are non-competitive grants that address emergency substance abuse or mental health needs in communities. Based on a determination by the Secretary of HHS that there is a substance abuse or mental health emergency, SERG may be awarded whether or not there has been a Stafford Act declaration. 

Losing 74 Americans every single day to this epidemic is unacceptable. As such, we strongly encourage you to declare the opioid and heroin epidemic a crisis immediately, and to look into a mechanism by which to make emergency funds available to states to combat the issue today.  We stand ready to support your efforts to combat the epidemic that so many Americans are already fighting every day. We request your immediate attention to this serious matter and look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

Rep. Courtney, Joe CT-02

Rep. Aguilar, Pete CA-31

Rep. Boyle, Brendan PA-13

Rep. Brady, Bob PA-01

Rep. Bustos, Cheri IL-17

Rep. Capuano, Mike MA-07

Rep. Cicilline, David RI-01

Rep. Clark, Katherine MA-5

Rep. Clyburn, Jim SC-06

Rep. Connelly, Gerry VA-11

Rep. Cummings, Elijah MD-7

Rep. DeLauro, Rosa CT-03

Rep. DeSaulnier, Mark CA-11

Rep. Duckworth, Tammy IL-8

Rep. Esty, Elizabeth CT-05

Rep. Fudge, Marcia OH-11

Rep. Grayson, Alan FL-09

Rep. Gutierrez, Luis IL-04

Rep. Higgins, Brian NY-26

Rep. Himes, Jim CT-4

Rep. Jackson Lee, Sheila TX-18

Rep. Kaptur, Marcy OH-09

Rep. Keating, William MA-9

Rep. Kennedy, Joe MA-04

Rep. Kildee, Dan MI-05

Rep. Kind, Ron WI-3

Rep. Kuster, Ann McLane NH-02

Rep. Langevin, Jim RI-2

Rep. Larson, John CT-01

Rep. Lee, Barbara CA-13

Rep. Levin, Sandy MI-09

Rep. Lewis, John GA-05

Rep. Loebsack, Dave IO-02

Rep. Lynch, Steve MA-8

Rep. Maloney, Carolyn NY-12

Rep. Maloney, Sean Patrick NY-18

Rep. McCollum, Betty MN-04

Rep. McGovern, James P. MA-02

Rep. Moulton, Seth MA-6

Rep. Neal MA-01

Rep. Nolan, Rick MI-08

Rep. Norcross, Donald NJ-01

Rep. Pascrell, Bill NJ-08

Rep. Perlmutter, Ed CO-07

Rep. Pingree, Chellie – ME-1

Rep. Polis, Jared CO-02

Rep. Price, David NC-04

Rep. Rangel, Charles NY-13

Rep. Ryan, Tim OH-13

Rep. Sanchez, Linda CA-38

Rep. Sarbanes, John – MD-3

Rep. Schakowsky, Jan IL-09

Rep. Sires, Albio NJ-08

Rep. Slaughter, Louise NY-25

Rep. Tonko, Paul NY-20

Rep. Torres, Norma CA-35

Rep. Tsongas, Niki MA-03                          

Rep. Van Hollen, Chris MD-8

Rep. Walz, Tim MN-1

Rep. Welch, Peter VT-At-Large

Rep. Yarmuth, John KY-3

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