A picture of Representative Keith J. Rothfus
Keith R.
Republican PA 12

About Rep. Keith
  • Faces of Addiction

    by Representative Keith J. Rothfus

    Posted on 2016-01-06

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    ROTHFUS. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman from New Hampshire (Mr. Guinta) and the gentlewoman from New Hampshire (Ms. Kuster) for organizing this Special Order this evening, and also for the participation with the Bipartisan Task Force to Combat the Heroin Epidemic; and to also recognize the individuals from New Hampshire, Kriss and Mark, who came down, and for the bravery in sharing the story of Amber and how it is important for all of us to be reflecting on this very serious crisis that we have.

    Many of our communities have been hit hard by the opioid abuse epidemic. Like other regions of the country, this brutal epidemic is affecting western Pennsylvania, destroying lives, breaking up families, and claiming far too many of our loved ones.

    Vonda Probst from Friedens, Pennsylvania, knows firsthand the devastating reality of losing a loved one to drugs. Nearly 2 years have passed since Ms. Probst lost her son, Jared Carter, to a heroin overdose. Jared enjoyed motorcycle riding, four-wheeling, fixing old cars, and just being outdoors. He would have turned 30 this last summer.

    {time} 2045 There are far too many stories like Jared's in Pennsylvania and throughout our Nation, lives full of potential and value that are cut short by drug abuse.

    According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, last year alone there were well over 10,000 heroin overdose deaths. This number reflects a six-fold increase in the number of heroin deaths since 2001.

    In my State of Pennsylvania alone, drug overdose deaths have increased by 470 percent over the past two decades, and heroin and opioids are increasingly to blame. These drugs have been responsible for the loss of nearly 3,000 lives in our State in just the last 5 years.

    Parts of the 12th District have been especially hard hit as heroin use is the leading cause of accidental deaths. In fact, in 2012, there were a record 261 drug overdose deaths in Allegheny County, which is more than Allegheny County's traffic fatalities and homicides put together and is 30 percent higher than the State average. In Cambria County, the drug overdose death rate is nearly double the State average.

    These statistics are horrifying, but behind the numbers are people and tragedy. Every heroin-related death cuts short a valuable human life that should have ended with a much brighter and a much later chapter. Every American who dies from a drug overdose is a person who had dignity and potential. Without adequate assistance, however, each one did not have hope.

    It is time to turn a new page in order to proactively defeat this deadly epidemic with renewed dedication. As a member of the Bipartisan Task Force to Combat the Heroin Epidemic, I am strongly committed to ending this scourge.

    We need to find new ways to combat this crisis and to continue learning from our community-based organizations on how they are providing help on the front lines. I have worked with local leaders in my district, such as Reverend Sylvia King, the pastor and founder of Johnstown's Christ Centered Community Church, which provides drug recovery services and counseling. I have also worked with local law enforcement and other treatment groups to make sure the necessary resources are available to help those in need.

    Here in Congress we also need to be looking at legislative responses to help address this issue. In the past, I have supported increased funding for the Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program, which provides resources and support for heroin victims through prevention and education programs as well as drug treatment and enforcement.

    I am also a cosponsor of legislation that has been introduced by Representatives Susan Brooks and Joe Kennedy--the Heroin and Prescription Opioid Abuse Prevention, Education, and Enforcement Act-- to reauthorize the Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs that are so critical to local law enforcement efforts, to increase access to the life-saving opioid reversal drug Naloxone, and to raise public provider and patient awareness of opioid drugs and their link to heroin.

    We must remember heroin's victims, such as Jared Carter and so many other like him, who have lost their lives. Let's galvanize the support necessary to stop these tragedies. We must be mindful in that people, as they watch this discussion this evening, may know somebody who is hurting right now, somebody in need. It may be somebody, himself, who is watching.

    Get help. Reach out. Don't do this alone.

    I thank the gentleman from New Hampshire, and I thank the gentlewoman from New Hampshire for organizing this Special Order. I look forward to continuing to work back home and here in D.C. to address this crisis.

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