WASHINGTON – A recent discussion with President Trump and members of his administration marked the latest public effort West Virginia U.S. Rep. David McKinley has taken to fight the nation's opioid epidemic.
McKinley was part of a small group of congressional representatives at the working lunch March 30 to discuss how best to combat the opioid crisis, the congressman from West Virginia's 1st District announced in a recent press release. Administration senior officials who attended the working lunch included Vice President Mike Pence.
"Drug addiction and opioid abuse is a national crisis that has touched all of our lives," McKinley said in his press release. "Too many people in West Virginia and around the country have seen their loved ones fall into a downward spiral of addiction, robbing them of their God-given potential. We need to step up our fight against this epidemic."
The meeting with Trump was a good opportunity to share recommendations, McKinley said in his press release.
"One suggestion we offered was to have the surgeon general play a more vocal role in educating the public," he said.
McKinley also indicated he is confident in the president's commitment to combating the opioid crisis.
"President Trump has made it very clear that he is committed to tackling this problem head on," McKinley said. "I look forward to working with him to push back against the scourge of drug addiction.”
The working lunch followed on the White House announcement of a new initiative to combat the drug epidemic with the President’s Commission on Combating the Drug Epidemic and Opioid Abuse, to be led by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
The president said in his remarks from the Cabinet Room of the White House that his administration wants to help those facing addictions.
"Drug abuse has become a crippling problem throughout the United States," he said. "Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of accidental death in our country. And opioid overdose deaths have nearly quadrupled since 1999. This is a total epidemic, and I think it's probably almost untalked about compared to the severity that we're witnessing."
The opioid crisis fight appears to be a bipartisan issue for West Virginia's congressional delegation. Democrat West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin also met with Trump and members of his administration about the ongoing opioid epidemic. Manchin said in a statement that he was pleased to attend the meeting with the Republican administration.
“The president’s commission to combat drug addiction and the opioid crisis demonstrates our shared commitment to fighting the opioid epidemic but we must do more," Manchin said in that statement.
Earlier in March, Manchin joined with 10 other Democrats in the Senate to reintroduce the Budgeting for Opioid Addiction Treatment, or LifeBOAT, Act to establish a permanent funding stream and expand access to substance abuse treatment. Manchin also is a co-sponsor of the Promoting Responsible Opioid Prescribing Act and the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act.
McKinley also has used his office to make a public fight against opioid abuse. Last spring, he submitted to amendments to three House bills, all of which ultimately passed, to beef up legislation targeting opioid abuse.
One of those, H.R. 4641, legislation sponsored by U.S. House Rep. Susan Brooks, a Republican from Indiana, would direct an inter-agency task force to review, modify and update practices for pain management and prescribing pain medication in rural and small town communities. McKinley also offered an amendment, with Democrat Rep. Peter Welch from Vermont, on the same legislation, to identify and research better alternatives to non-opioid forms of pain management.
Another amendment, this one offered with Democrat U.S. Rep. Steve Israel from New York and Republican U.S. Rep. Markwayne Mullin of Oklahoma, would amend H.R. 5046 to direct the U.S. attorney general to consider a community’s prevalence of opioid abuse and related deaths when awarding grants to states to combat opioid epidemic. H.R. 5046 was sponsored by Republican Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner from Wisconsin.
McKinley also submitted an amendment to H.R. 4982, sponsored by Democrats Rep. Bill Foster of Illinois and Rep. Frank Pallone of New Jersey, to help strengthen real time data reporting on substance abuse at local, state and federal levels.