Photo credit: Take Back Bridgewater

The number is in: 174. That’s the number of people who die every day as a result of drug addiction in America, according to the Center for Disease Control.

Chances are you or someone you know has been affected by the opioid epidemic ravaging our country. It affects everyone regardless of gender, race, age, economic status, or where you live. Urban. Suburban. Rural. The addiction does not discriminate. It is ripping apart communities and families across the Third District.

Last week, I hosted an opioid roundtable in Bridgewater in Adair County. Folks from the Drug Enforcement Agency, state government, hospitals, treatment centers, and law enforcement agencies joined me to hear from members and leaders of the Bridgewater community.

You may remember, Bridgewater started to see an influx of drugs and drug activity into their community a few years ago. The people of Bridgewater were not about to sit idly by while all this happened. They united and took action by starting the Take Back Bridgewater movement to tell those using their town as a drug trading post they weren’t welcome.

But the illegal drug problem has been exacerbated by America’s addiction to opioids. Someone can become addicted to opioids in just five days. When their prescription runs out, some turn to illegal drugs – heroin or fentanyl – to feed the addiction.

When combatting the opioid epidemic, it must be done at every stage: education, prevention, enforcement, and treatment.

At the Bridgewater roundtable, relationships were built and strategies and resources were revealed to help groups collaborate in combatting the opioid epidemic.

Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives passed – in a bipartisan way – more than 25 bills to help fight the opioid epidemic. There was almost unanimous agreement on these bills on both sides of the aisle. This isn’t a partisan issue. It affects every district in the country.

Some of the policies addressed were to help improve and expand access to treatment and recovery services, provide incentives for enhanced, coordinated, and innovative care, encourage physicians to use non-addictive opioid alternatives to treat pain, address high prescribing rates, and enhance prescription drug monitoring programs.

The bills help protect communities by giving law enforcement tools they need to get drugs and drug dealers out of our communities, and to help intercept illicit opioids at international mail facilities. And we ramped up the fight on fentanyl by cracking down on foreign shipments of this deadly drug to help get fentanyl off their streets.

These bills are a result of more than a year of studying the issue with committee hearings, roundtables, and listening to those on the ground – individuals and communities – and addiction, treatment, prevention, and law enforcement experts.

But we’re not done. This week, we’re considering more bills to combat the opioid epidemic. And I’ll continue to take the heartbreaking stories I’ve heard from Iowans to Congress to help highlight and fight this scourge, as well as provide treatment to those who found themselves in a horrible and addictive situation.

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