July 16, 2015

Manchin Urges Support for Commonsense Substance Abuse Measure

Senator Manchin’s amendment to the education reauthorization bill would encourage states to adopt a strategy to help educate students who face substance abuse in the home

Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) delivered remarks on the Senate floor urging his Senate colleagues to support a commonsense amendment to the Every Child Achieves Act, which would address one of our nation’s fastest growing problems – substance abuse. The amendment passed and was included in the bill.

This bipartisan amendment, which he introduced with Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), would require a State Education Agency in a state where substance abuse is a significant problem to include in its state plan a strategy to provide support to Local Education Agencies (LEAs) for the education of children and youth facing substance abuse in the home. The support may include professional development, training, and technical assistance to LEAs and schools in communities with high rates of substance abuse.

“Many communities across the country and in West Virginia are seeing an alarming rise in substance abuse and addiction,” Senator Manchin said. “Substance abuse by parents and other caregivers can have a significant, negative impact on the well-being of children, including making it more difficult for them to learn and thrive in school. Many local school districts are already tackling these challenges, and this amendment would aid those efforts and help these vulnerable children by requiring State Education Agencies to consider solutions to this important problem.”

 For a video of Senator Manchin’s remarks, please click here.


 Senator Manchin’s remarks as prepared for delivery:

I urge my colleagues to support a commonsense amendment I have introduced to the Every Child Achieves Act that addresses an epidemic that is devastating my state and our country: substance abuse.

Communities across the country, including many in my little state of West Virginia, are seeing an alarming rise in substance abuse and addiction to legal prescription drugs.

West Virginia is number one in overdose deaths due to drug abuse. We’ve seen over a 600 percent increase in the number of people dying since 1999.

Nationally, 21.6 million Americans are battling substance dependence or abuse.

But as most of you know, you can’t truly understand substance abuse with just lists of facts and statistics; it’s one that can only be understood by hearing the stories of those impacted.

As Governor of West Virginia, I traveled around the state and have seen firsthand the effects substance abuse can have, and we tried to tackle many of these issues at the state level.

But one of the most moving experiences occurred during my first trip back to the Mountain State after becoming a U.S. Senator.

I traveled to Oceana Middle School, where I had expected to talk about the importance of receiving a good education and working hard to gain the necessary skills to be successful in the workforce.

Instead, I heard personal stories from eleven-year-olds who spoke candidly about the ways that drugs were tearing apart their families, their homes and their communities.

As tears trickled down their faces, they shared how they rarely played outside because too many needles coated the streets and drug deals often took place right in front of them.

It is one thing to hear about overdoses and addiction from doctors, medical experts or police officers who deal with substance abuse cases every day.

It is another thing entirely to sit across from an eleven-year-old girl who is fighting through tears to describe how her home life is under siege because of addiction.

Her father was hurt in the coal mines and rapidly became addicted to his painkillers, causing her family to lose everything.

As I listened to her story, I couldn’t help but think that this young girl had to grow up far too fast, only for her adolescence to be ruined by such a small, yet potent drug. It’s heartbreaking.

That is why I am doing everything in my power to fight this national problem.

My commonsense, bipartisan amendment with Senator Ayotte would simply require that in states where this is a significant problem, the state education plan to include a strategy for how the state will help local education agencies educate students who face substance abuse in the home.

To be clear, it does not prescribe or require any particular response – it simply gives states the flexibility to craft proposals that meet particular local needs.

Substance abuse by parents and other caregivers can have a significant, negative impact on the well-being of children and makes it more difficult for them to learn and thrive in school.

This amendment is a small step toward addressing that problem, but it will encourage the state to consider solutions that will enable local schools and communities to better help these vulnerable children and ensure that every child is ready to learn.

Our country, our states, our communities, our schools and our children need us to take every action to protect them from the devastation of substance abuse.

I’m often reminded of the 5 promises we as a society must make to our children: that they will grow up with the help and guidance of caring adult, safe surroundings, healthy childhoods, effective education and opportunities to serve others.

This amendment helps to fulfill our 2nd promise – the promise of a safe place.

We owe it to our children to help them find a safe environment where they can learn.

They should not have to grow up too soon and take care of their parents who have become addicted to prescription drugs or meth or alcohol.

We owe them their childhood and the promise of a quality education whatever challenges they may face at home.

I hope that the United States Senate will be able to vote on this amendment and urge you to support it.