COMMUNITY CRISIS: Addressing addiction crisis crosses party lines in Washington DC

(Photo: Alex Schuman)

WASHINGTON DC (WLNS) – In a town often divided along party lines, there is one thing Washington can agree on.

“This really is a crisis,” said Sen. Debbie Stabenow.

Rep. Tim Walberg agrees, “This whole opioid, heroin abuse issue has reached epidemic proportions.”

Michigan lawmakers on both sides of the aisle praised the latest government spending bill for increasing funding to fight addiction. But they say money won’t solve everything.

“We have to have some policy changes,” adds Rep. Walberg.

Walberg is working on legislation to make sure doctors are aware their patients’ past struggles with addiction. He also make sure people who are prescribed drugs, don’t fall into addiction’s trap.
“We’re talking about pharmaceuticals — increasing their oversight to make sure we aren’t just marketing these things.”

Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow says that’s a problem she sees all over the state. “It’s very important that we be managing and making decisions about prescription drugs in a way that doesn’t create more opioids.”

There is one major point of disagreement among Michigan’s members of Congress — the GOP healthcare plan. Democratic lawmakers say thousands of people in Michigan getting treatment for drug abuse could lose coverage if the bill becomes law.

“It would eliminate a provision that currently requires insurance companies to cover mental health and substance abuse with the same copays and premiums as physical health,” explains Sen. Stabenow.

Walberg voted for the bill and insists his party will continue funding the fight against addiction. “I think members of Congress are well aware of this in all of our districts and I don’t think we’re going to walk away.”

Sen. Stabenow insists “It’s a slap in the face to Michigan families and I’m working as hard as I can to go in a different direction.”

Stabenow has introduced legislation that would require communities to have 24-Hour emergency facilities for people in crisis. “So people wouldn’t have to go to the jail or Emergency room, but they could get 24 hour emergency care that they need.”

In a state where addiction took the lives of 2000 people in just one year both lawmakers agree. This is a problem that transcends party and politics.

Senator Gary Peters agrees that too many Michigan families have lost loved ones to opioid addiction. In a statement he said, in part, “I am deeply opposed to the Republican health care plan that would allow states to eliminate essential health benefits like substance abuse care and jeopardize Medicaid expansion that thousands of Michiganders utilize for addiction treatment.”

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