Boston (November 7, 2016) – Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) called for federal funding for prevention and treatment programs to address the opioid epidemic as alarming new data from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health released today paints a dire picture of increasing overdoses and deaths due to opioids, in particular illicit fentanyl. The new data reveal that 74 percent of deaths in the third quarter of this year had a toxicology screen showing a positive result for fentanyl. That is a 30 percent increase over 2015, when 57 percent of the deaths tested positive for fentanyl. The new data reports 1,005 confirmed cases of unintentional opioid overdose deaths for the first nine months of 2016, which doesn’t include an estimated 400 more suspected opioid-related deaths that may be added to that total. This is a pace higher than the first nine months of 2015. The new data also indicates that the 2015 rate of unintentional opioid-related overdose deaths is the highest ever and represents a 32 percent increase over the rate in 2014.
When Congress returns to session after Election Day, Senator Markey will call for the federal government spending package for 2017 to include new funding for prevention and treatment programs to address the opioid crisis. This past fall, when the U.S. Senate was debating the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, Congressional Republicans blocked all efforts to provide funding to cities and states for treatment and recovery services.
Below is a statement from Senator Markey:
“Fentanyl is trending to quickly replace heroin as the deadliest illicit opioid drug our country is facing. Our families and cities are drowning in a deluge of opioid addiction and overdoses, and we need to give them a lifeline. Congress needs to make a substantial investment in funding treatment and recovery programs to get help to all the families suffering from opioid addictio. The longer we wait to get people into treatment and recovery, the greater the likelihood they will encounter fentanyl and die.
“We will not save lives and stop this scourge of addiction with just words and promises. When Congress returns after Election Day, I will stand up and fight for funding in any government spending bill to help stem the tide of heroin and prescription drug addiction.”
Senator Markey is a Congressional leader in combatting the opioid epidemic. He has introduced numerous pieces of legislation to fund and expand opioid addiction prevention and treatment programs, as well as legislation mandating education on safe prescribing for any prescriber of opioid medication. He succeeded in getting the Food and Drug Administration to agree to his request to reassess the way it considers the risks of addiction and misuse when it evaluates the safety of new opioids.