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LAMB INTRODUCES BIPARTISAN BILL TO COMBAT OPIOID EPIDEMIC IN RURAL AREAS

May 4, 2021
Press Release

(WASHINGTON, DC) – Today, Representative Conor Lamb (PA-17) and Representative Randy Feenstra (IA-04) along with original cosponsors Representatives Abigail Spanberger (VA-7) and Mariannette Miller-Meeks (IA-02), introduced the Rural Area Opioid Prevention Pilot Program Act.  This bipartisan legislation will fully authorize the U.S. Department of Justice’s (DOJ) pilot program, the Rural Responses to the Opioid Epidemic Initiative, providing the agency with the resources it needs to implement community response programs in rural areas with a focus on reducing opioid overdose deaths and providing alternatives to incarceration. 

“Like many states, Pennsylvania has seen an increase in opioid deaths during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Lamb.  “While Congress has rightfully been focused on the pandemic, several reports indicate that COVID-19 has exacerbated issues with opioid use.  This smart, commonsense legislation will immediately help the communities that need it the most.”

“I am honored to lead this bipartisan effort with Rep. Lamb.  The promising pilot programs included in this bill are a critical step forward as we work to curb the opioid epidemic, taking a targeted approach and ensuring rural Americans suffering from addiction have the resources they need to recover and get a second chance.  The COVID-19 pandemic has worsened opioid abuse, and it is important that we work to tackle this issue immediately,” said Feenstra.

“Rural America has been hit hard by the opioid epidemic for years, and Iowa is no exception.  The COVID-19 pandemic only made things worse, and we need to be doing more to help those fighting addiction,” said Miller-Meeks.  “The Rural Area Opioid Prevention Pilot Program Act is a step in the right direction to help rural communities combat this crisis.  Helping Americans take on opioid abuse and addiction is a bipartisan issue, and I am proud to partner with my colleagues to find solutions to this problem.”

“During the pandemic, our nation witnessed a record number of overdose deaths — and here in Virginia, experts project that overdose deaths increased by more than 40 percent from the previous year.  Behind these statistics are personal, heartbreaking stories of parents who have lost their children to the agonizing loss of overdose.  As we focus on our recovery from this pandemic, I’m keeping their pleas to help other families avoid this loss in the forefront of my mind,” said Spanberger. “This bipartisan legislation makes sure the Department of Justice has the resources and support it needs to help build a pathway towards healing and recovery, especially throughout rural America, which has been particularly impacted by the substance abuse crisis.  I’m proud to help introduce the Rural Area Opioid Prevention Pilot Program Act, and I am committed to building new ways for communities in Central Virginia and across the country to combat skyrocketing rates of overdose deaths.”

Co-funded by the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the State Justice Institute (SJI), the Rural Responses to the Opioid Epidemic Initiative is a DOJ pilot program that integrates public safety and public health approaches and blends interagency expertise and funding to address the epidemic.  The Rural Area Opioid Prevention Pilot Program Act will authorize and codify this program by providing the federal funding to continue building on its early successes.

Since early 2020, 21 rural American communities that have borne the brunt of the opioid epidemic have received millions in federal funding to develop tailored and innovative responses to gaps in prevention, treatment and/or recovery services for individuals involved in the criminal justice system.  The funds enable rural areas to implement evidence-based solutions and promising practices in a way that utilizes the unique assets of their communities.  The goal of the program is to reduce opioid overdose deaths in high-risk rural communities while supporting and promoting a shared understanding of the patterns and characteristics of local opioid use.

Click here for more information on the Rural Area Opioid Prevention Pilot Program Act.

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