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Bonamici offers view on opioid problem

January 30, 2018
In The News

U.S. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici says more money for drug treatment must be coupled with better education and pain-relieving alternatives to deal with the abuse of opioids.

The Oregon Democrat spoke after she conducted the last of five roundtable discussions with officials and providers of health care and social services — and some people in recovery — in each of the five counties within the 1st Congressional District of northwest Oregon.

Her Jan. 25 roundtable in Washington County was preceded by a tour of the Beaverton office of LifeWorks Northwest, a provider of mental health and addiction services, which also runs the county's Hawthorn walk-in mental health clinic in Hillsboro.

"We desperately need more funding for treatment," Bonamici said afterward in a brief interview.

"We need better education, especially in regard to prescribing practices. We need to make sure we have alternatives to dealing with pain, because often, insurance isn't covering them.

"This is something affecting families across Oregon in a personal way. It's not something we can ignore."

Bonamici is a cosponsor of four related bills, two whose chief sponsors are Democrats, and two who are Republicans.

One (HR 3692) would expand medication-assisted treatment. Another (HR 664) would expand prevention, promote treatment and recovery, and provide training and equipment for Naloxone, a medication that reverses opioid overdoses. Other bills would enable better screening of illegal opioid imports (HR 1057) and empower the Department of Justice to respond (HR 4073).

Referring to President Donald Trump's request for $18 billion for a border wall with Mexico, Bonamici said if that amount were made available for treatment, "we could almost eliminate the demand if we treat people who are addicted."

What to do?

According to the Washington County Department of Health and Human Services, about 35 people die each year due to an overdose of opioids. Deaths have risen 47 percent since 2003.