Faces of Addictionby Representative Frank C. Guinta
Posted on 2016-01-06
GUINTA. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentlewoman for yielding.
Mr. Speaker, I am proud to join bipartisan Members, Republicans and Democrats from around the country, to talk about heroin use, an increasingly deadly public health crisis. I welcome Kriss and Mark from New Hampshire, who are here today to honor the life of Mark's daughter.
A special thank-you to Congresswoman Ann Kuster, my fellow Granite Stater and partner on our Bipartisan Task Force to Combat the Heroin Epidemic. We formed this task force last year to bring attention to opiate addiction and overdose spreading nationwide. Now over 40 House Members have joined our task force and this cause.
We aim to inform not just members of the public, but the Nation about the tragedies and the challenges that face our families, our communities, our States, our loved ones, and our friends. We are here not just to combat this epidemic, but bring solutions not just to this body, but to every area of the Nation.
Congresswoman Kuster and I have held a roundtable with addiction and law enforcement experts in Concord, New Hampshire, our home State. We [[Page H89]] held a subsequent policy briefing in Washington, D.C., featuring officials from the Drug Enforcement Agency, Centers for Disease Control, and other Federal agencies.
They are providing a fuller picture of the scope of the problem, which in New Hampshire has claimed 400 lives in 2015. To put that figure in perspective, 1 out of every 3,000 people have died of a heroin overdose just last year. The CDC reports that, nationally, overdose deaths have tripled over the last 10 years. These numbers, unfortunately, are likely to rise.
But numbers don't tell the whole story. To truly illustrate the dangers of heroin use, we need to hear from fathers like Doug Griffin of Newton in New Hampshire's First Congressional District. At a forum yesterday in Manchester, New Hampshire, where I proudly served as mayor, he told the audience about his daughter Courtney, who fell victim to heroin at just 20 years young.
Doug remembers his daughter as an exuberant young girl who had a great sense of humor and a passion for life until a mix of prescription pills, fentanyl, and street heroin ensnared Courtney--like millions of other Americans--in a fatal web of addiction. Before the drugs overcame her, she played music and she loved s'mores.
She wanted to be a marine and trained for it. But just 3 years later, Courtney was lost on the streets, in and out of rehab facilities. She no longer had the will to live. Because Courtney's situation was so dire, because it seemed like they had so few options, Doug said he and his family hid the truth from the outside world. Bravely, Doug is now telling everyone he knows about the warning signs of heroin addiction and deficiencies in our public response.
Tonight is about telling the truth in order to build momentum towards better solutions. It is about putting political disagreements aside, because the heroin epidemic crosses party lines. It crosses every congressional district in the United States.
The truth is addiction strikes every demographic and every geographic region. There are too many stories like Courtney's. However, we also have a wealth of ideas to combat this problem. Congresswoman Kuster and I formed the Bipartisan Task Force to gather those stories and ideas and assemble them into effective legislation.
We introduced the STOP ABUSE Act as the first order of business to coordinate law enforcement and public health agencies at the Federal, State, and local levels. The bill targets high-intensity drug trafficking areas for special attention. Newton, New Hampshire, where Doug Griffin's daughter died of an overdose, lies on such a route just north of the Massachusetts border.
The STOP ABUSE Act creates a stronger prescription pill monitoring program. In fact, it was overprescribed legal opiates that hooked Courtney in the first place. Personally, I have introduced legislation to increase access to lifesaving overdose medication.
The STOP ABUSE Act includes treatment and prevention grants to localities overwhelmed by the scale of addiction, as my colleagues gathered here tonight will continue to tell you. They have their own stories and their own ideas to share. I am grateful for their partnership and leadership as we work together to combat heroin abuse in the United States.