The Fight Against the Heroin Epidemic

In this photo taken on Feb 11, 2013, freshly dumped hypodermic syringes and a needle litter an abandoned cemetery in Myitkyina, the provincial capital of Kachin state, Myanmar. Myitkyina is known for having one of the highest concentrations of drug addicts in the world. The Kachin Baptist Convention, an evangelical group with over 300 churches in the state, says nearly 80 percent of ethnic Kachin youth are addicts. Their drug of choice is heroin. In the shadow of war, even drug abuse becomes politicized. Gryung Heang, the pastor of the camp church, says the government is willfully turning a blind eye to drug abuse among the Kachin because it wants to decimate young potential fighters. Officials say such views are absurd. (AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe)

One of the most serious problems that Maine and our Nation face today is the alarming and growing heroin epidemic.  Drug use, specifically of opioids like heroin, has skyrocketed in Maine and across the country in the last few years alone.  It is affecting our families, our friends and our communities.

A particularly alarming aspect of this growing epidemic that many be overlooked is its effect on infants.  Every year in America, more than 20,000 babies are born addicted to drugs.  Last year alone, nearly 1,000 of those babies were born in Maine.

80 percent of addicted infants are covered by Medicaid and treated at local hospitals. However, our hospitals are overwhelmed.  They’re not equipped to provide the specialized care these babies desperately need to recover from the drugs in their tiny bodies.

Residential pediatric recovery centers are designed and professionally staffed to provide this critically important early clinical care.  These centers depend on Medicaid dollars to stay open, but need clear certification guidelines in order to receive those funds.

That is why I am a proud original cosponsor of the Cradle Act.  This bill will provide clear guidelines for these centers so that they can receive the critical funding that that they need.

Every baby born into this world deserves our compassion and care.  This bill offers real hope for a healthy, safe, and loving start for thousands of American babies born addicted to drugs.

In addition, I am extremely proud to join my colleagues in the U.S House of Representatives, Republicans and Democrats, in forming the Bipartisan Task Force to Combat the Heroin Epidemic, a Congressional body that seeks to develop best practices to address and help solve the growing heroin epidemic in Maine and across the country.

Recently, the task force held a briefing to discuss the effectiveness of different treatment methods to combat opioid addiction.  As a founding member of this Congressional body, I look forward to continuing our work and investigating the heroin epidemic.

I don’t know a family in our Second District of Maine that has not been affected by drug abuse, alcoholism, or know someone or some family that hasn’t been.  As a parent, this is a tremendously serious issue and it is one that our State and our Nation must confront.


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