April 28, 2016

Lujan Fights for More Funding to Address Drug Crisis in New Mexico and Across the Country

Washington, D.C. – Congressman Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico’s Third District offered an amendment yesterday in an Energy and Commerce Committee markup to legislation addressing the drug crisis across the country.  Luján’s legislation called for $1 billion in funding to provide much-needed resources to combat the drug epidemic that is hurting millions of Americans, especially in New Mexico.  While the amendment was blocked by Republicans on the committee, Luján is working to introduce stand-alone legislation that reflects President Obama’s budget request to fund a robust effort to address the opioid epidemic.

“My home state of New Mexico has been especially hard hit by the drug crisis.  The drug overdose rate in New Mexico is at 27.3 per hundred-thousand. This is the second highest in the county and roughly double the national average.  In two counties in my home district, the overdose rate is more than four times the national average,” Luján said during the markup.  “In 2014, drug overdoses claimed the lives of 547 New Mexicans.  547 lives. 547 people who missed Thanksgiving dinner or their child’s softball game.  547 people who weren’t able to help their kids with their math homework or kiss their spouse goodnight.  547 brothers, sisters, parents, and friends that we lost to soon.

Luján also pointed out that this problem is not unique to New Mexico, impacting communities across the country.
“While the crisis has hit New Mexico hard, this crisis touches everyone, whether they live in rural communities, the suburbs, or the inner city.  According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, ‘drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in the United States, with 47,055 lethal drug overdoses in 2014,’” added Luján.  “Each member of this committee represents someone who has suffered this tragedy or lost someone that they love.  These are our constituents, our friends, and our loved ones.  This is why the work we are doing today is so important...but I think it’s abundantly clear that we have to do more…Though no single solution will solve this crisis, one thing is clear: right now, there just are not enough resources to go around.”

Luján’s amendment reflects the President’s proposal for new and expanded funding of $1 billion to combat the drug crisis plaguing the country.  This funding would provide a down payment for needed support to states to help them expand treatment capacity and make services more affordable and available.

As debate on the amendment continued, Luján pointed to House Republicans’ unwillingness to provide resources to address the public health crises facing the country.

“Some of the same words have been used when we are having debates about providing support for the millions of people in Puerto Rico, to offer them support – that it’s ‘fiscally irresponsible to help the people of Puerto Rico,’ where septic systems in schools are overflowing because the leadership of Puerto Rico has to make a decision as to where they are going to put their resources.  ‘But it’s fiscally irresponsible to go and help the people of Puerto Rico,’” Luján concluded.  “The Zika dilemma that is facing and crushing lives as we speak, taking lives, that it’s ‘fiscally irresponsible to go and help the victims of Zika.’  And Flint, Michigan, ‘that it’s fiscally irresponsible to go help the people of Flint,’ with the recommendations that have come forward.  And now we are hearing the same thing with the opioid crisis facing the country.  If we are looking for a pay-for, maybe we should look to the lives that have been lost, that have paid for this.”

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