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Congress should act on opioid plan

Despite years of lip service from the federal government about the importance of fighting the opioid epidemic that has ravaged not just West Virginia but populations across the country, little effort has been put toward making a real difference.

Lawmakers are trying their best to change that, as evidenced by the nonpartisan group that has reintroduced the Non-Opioids Prevent Addiction in the Nation Act, which would expand access to and use of non-opioid pain management tools.

It seems a simple and effective tool to have in the arsenal, which should encounter little resistance. U.S. Reps. David McKinley, R-W.Va., Terri Sewell, D-Ala., Ann Kuster, D-N.H., and Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., are behind the effort, which has a counterpart that was introduced in the Senate in March by U.S. Sens. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Rob Portman, R-Ohio.

“The opioid epidemic has been largely overshadowed by the current COVID-19 pandemic,” said Chris Fox, executive director of Voices for Non-Opioid Choices, which was among those urging inclusion of the NOPAIN Act last year. “Recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data reports more than 87,000 people died of a drug overdose in the 12 months ending in September 2020, the highest number of overdose deaths ever recorded in a 12-month period. We urgently need prevention-based policy solutions like the ones proposed by representatives Sewell, McKinley, Kuster and Fitzpatrick to truly curb the skyrocketing rates of opioid overdose deaths in the United States.”

For his part, McKinley believes many of the drug overdose deaths reported could have been prevented if doctors had felt more comfortable prescribing non-opioid options for pain management.

“This bill will eliminate disincentives for non-opioid pain management and will reduce the number of Americans who get hooked on addictive opioid painkillers,” he said.

He and the others behind these bills are right. The trick now is to convince the rest of Congress to do the right thing to empower doctors and patients in the fight to stop this monster.

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