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Fighting opioid abuse: an update

Morgan Griffith
Report from Washington

Our nation is in the throes of a real, devastating opioid epidemic that is plaguing our communities. Too many have been affected by this growing epidemic, which destroys lives, families, and communities.
Addressing this epidemic continues to be a priority. I am pleased to report that legislation to help tackle this problem: the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (S.524), has cleared both chambers of Congress. It is heading to the President’s desk, where we expect it soon to be signed into law.
That bill, which deals with many different issues driving the opioid crisis, comes after much bipartisan work. It earned the support of many of our nation’s leading advocacy groups, many of whom are on the front lines of the fight against the epidemic.
Interestingly, one of the concepts included in the legislation was actually discussed by a participant in a roundtable I hosted in Bristol with Congressman Phil Roe M.D. (R-TN) as part of our ongoing efforts to combat opioid drug abuse in the region. This concept was to permit certain additional people to take back expired, unused, or unwanted prescription opioid drugs.
Currently only the Drug Enforcement Agency can do so. Under this bill, however, pharmacists, doctors, etc. will be able to take back drugs, helping keep households free of unneeded medications. Accordingly, this would work to decrease opportunities for folks to acquire drugs that aren’t theirs.
Our roundtable included local health and law enforcement exports, focused in on how we can better collaboratively fight the opioid abuse problem.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse has reported that more than 25,000 people died from prescription drug overdose in 2014, and more than 17,000 died from an illicit drug overdose. While the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act includes important solutions to help our communities, our urgent efforts to help save lives will continue.
As with the opioid epidemic, mental health issues affect the lives of many. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, approximately 53.8 million Americans suffer from mental illness. Unfortunately, drug abuse and mental health issues can go hand-in-hand. Some with mental illness may try to self-medicate, and some who abuse drugs can develop mental illnesses.
Following a multi-year effort, my colleagues and I on the Energy and Commerce Committee unanimously passed on a bipartisan basis the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act (H.R. 2646) on June 15.
This is an important step forward in strengthening our mental health care system and helping families and loved ones struggling with mental health disorders.
The legislation went on to pass the full House of Representatives earlier this month in a vote of 422-2, and this effort now moves on to the Senate. Though there is more work to be done, I am encouraged by this progress and am pleased to have played a role in the advancement of this legislation. I encourage the Senate to quickly consider and approve it.
On July 12 and with my support, the House of Representatives passed the Separation of Powers Restoration Act (H.R. 4768), which would overturn a Supreme Court decision that has added to confusion in the courts, Congress, the legal bar, and legal academia regarding whether, when, and how courts should defer to federal agencies’ interpretations of the statutes they administer.
Named after the case (Chevron U.S.A., Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc.), this practice is known as “Chevron deference” or “administrative deference.”
In the Chevron case, the Supreme Court acknowledged that Congress could change these rules of deference if we so wished. I am glad we finally voted to do so.
It is high time we fight to defend the legislative prerogative from our government’s overreaching executive branch. Protecting the authority of the legislature has long been a priority of mine, and I am pleased to be involved in the House Republican initiative to curtail executive overreach, impose new limits on spending, and restore self-government and the separation of powers.
I applaud House passage of the Separation of Powers Restoration Act, and strongly encourage our colleagues in the Senate to join us in taking action to defend the Constitution and rein in administrative overreach.
If you have questions, concerns, or comments, feel free to contact my office. You can call my Abingdon office at (276) 525-1405 or my Christiansburg office at (540) 381-5671. To reach my office via email, please visit my website at www.morgangriffith.house.gov. Also on my website is the latest material from my office, including information on votes recently taken on the floor of the House of Representatives.

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