December 29, 2017

Alarming Numbers | Bluefield Daily Telegraph

Statistics back need for LifeBOAT Act

U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., is urging fellow lawmakers to commit to passing the LifeBOAT Act, a necessary measure that would create a permanent funding stream to provide and expand access to substance abuse treatment.

The proposed legislation would be funded by placing a one cent fee on every milligram of opioid produced.

The measure has been introduced by Manchin twice now, and on both occasions has been allowed to languish in the U.S. Senate. It should be reconsidered, particularly in light of alarming new statistics released last week by the Centers for Disease Control.

According to the CDC, there were 42,249 opioid-related overdose deaths in the U.S. in 2016. That is a 28 percent increase over 2015. The report concluded that 115 people are dying of opioid-related overdose deaths every day.

West Virginia had the highest overdose death rate in the country at 52 per 100,000 people, the report found. The national rate is 19.8 per 100,000 and the next two highest states – New Hampshire and Ohio — saw 39 deaths per 100,000, according to the report.

The CDC also found that the number of drug overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids other than methadone (fentanyl, etc.) doubled from 9,580 in 2015 to 19,413 in 2016.

In addition, deaths due to heroin rose nearly 20 percent and deaths associated with other opioid pain killers, including hydrocodone and oxycodone, rose by 14 percent.

“There has not been a year since I have been in the Senate that opioid overdose deaths have gone down, and this year is no different,” Manchin said last week. “Despite my best efforts to work with congressional leadership and two administrations for nearly a decade, our country still cannot properly combat an epidemic that is ravaging our nation and that will change every aspect of our society for generations to come. After all of the trauma our neighbors, families, and friends have been through and after all of the strain we’ve put on our community, state, and local budgets and resources, we still do not fully appreciate the devastating impact of this crisis and continue to do far too little to stop it.”

Manchin correctly argues for the need for targeted emergency funding that would help save lives now while also creating permanent funding for treatment centers that can save lives tomorrow. That’s what the proposed LifeBOAT Act would do. The funding stream generated from the measure would be about $2 billion a year.

“Congressional leaders, government officials and my colleagues should be alarmed by the rate in which people are dying,” Manchin added.

We agree. And we, too, believe the LifeBOAT Act can help. The opioid epidemic is not a Democratic or Republican issue. It is a federal public health emergency — as declared by President Donald Trump earlier this year.

There should be a dedicated revenue source available for the operation of substance abuse treatment centers. These facilities are essential if we are to succeed in helping those who are suffering from the chains of addiction.