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Oregon Lawmakers Wage Bipartisan Campaign on Opioid Epidemic

As Republican Representative Walden held a roundtable with victims of the crisis, Democrat Senator Wyden addressed the Committee on Finance.

Posted: Apr 20, 2018 11:58 AM
Updated: Apr 20, 2018 12:08 PM

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) delivered an impassioned address to a Senate Finance Committee hearing on Thursday, admonishing his colleagues to hold pharmaceutical companies accountable for their part in the opioid crisis.

Meanwhile, Representative Greg Walden (R-Hood River) held a roundtable discussion to hear from victims of the crisis, and advocates for change.

"This is probably the most important meeting we’ve held because you all have been there, in the trenches, and have lived this terrible tragedy that has befallen our country. We’ve seen quadrupled opioid deaths since 1999. More people die from opioid overdoses in America than traffic accidents," said Walden

One of the speakers was Paula Peterson of Grants Pass, who addressed the group in Washington via video from Walden's office in Medford.

Peterson spoke about her son Cole, who began using oxycodone around age 15 or 16 because it was readily available—friends or family members of friends had prescripctions left over and forgotten from various ailments. Eventually, the addiction to oxycodone led to other opiate forms, once sources changed or dried up.

“At that time, he was living in a neighborhood where heroin was plentiful. He was not alone—almost all of his friends got hooked on heroin. These were, and are, good kids. Two of his close friends are lost to the streets or jail, the others are on Suboxone, including Cole,” Peterson said.

Peterson advocated for Congress to make Suboxone and other medication-assisted treatments more available, for communities to fight the sigmatization of opioid abuse, and for researches to delve into the root causes of addiction.

At the Finance Committee hearing, Sen. Wyden called out the numbers.

"In 2015, more than 52,000 Americans died of a drug overdose. In 2016 it increased to 64,000. In 2017, it was 71,000. There’s a tragic and well-documented pattern of opioid addiction escalating into abuse of heroin and fentanyl," said Wyden.

However, Wyden underscored the complex and sensitive nature of addressing the epidemic effectively.

"Those of us looking for answers also have to deal with the paradoxical reality that cutting down the supply of opioids too sharply could drive even more people to heroin and other drugs, leading to even more overdose deaths. There is no easy way out of this crisis," said Wyden.

In Oregon, Sen. Wyden and Rep. Walden seem to agree that funding is a good start. Walden recently praised the news that Oregon would receive over $6.5 million in federal grants for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), to be used for the prevention and treatment of opioid abuse.

"There is a bipartisan interest in finding new legislative proposals to help make a difference. And the chronic care legislation that just became law shows that this committee can work together on the big health policy challenges. So the chairman and I are working with every member to identify meaningful policies that can achieve broad, bipartisan support. Colleagues on both sides have done a lot of work on this issue," said Sen. Wyden.

Oregon Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 193732

Reported Deaths: 2572
CountyCasesDeaths
Multnomah38352591
Washington25592233
Marion22026306
Clackamas17440214
Lane13007148
Jackson10862139
Deschutes896274
Umatilla820284
Linn492969
Yamhill446376
Klamath441164
Polk375752
Malheur351863
Josephine334570
Douglas327271
Benton310019
Jefferson219837
Coos206633
Columbia174427
Union144823
Lincoln137921
Wasco137728
Hood River118730
Crook111322
Morrow110716
Clatsop9858
Baker95414
Tillamook6493
Curry6469
Grant5095
Lake4517
Harney3448
Wallowa1845
Gilliam631
Sherman581
Wheeler321
Unassigned00

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 3764405

Reported Deaths: 62573
CountyCasesDeaths
Los Angeles123645624067
Riverside2994554594
San Bernardino2967824715
San Diego2785913729
Orange2709835026
Santa Clara1190642096
Kern1091771374
Sacramento1048401686
Fresno1018381688
Alameda879401657
Ventura810011013
San Joaquin732201391
Contra Costa68741805
Stanislaus621421061
Tulare49654839
Monterey43613383
San Mateo42038568
San Francisco36720544
Santa Barbara34337456
Solano32953252
Merced31898460
Sonoma30035320
Imperial28443726
Kings22989246
Placer22679292
San Luis Obispo21308260
Madera16462242
Santa Cruz16264207
Marin14056227
Yolo13910210
Shasta12152226
Butte12026199
El Dorado10168112
Napa987082
Sutter9433112
Yuba626847
San Benito606563
Lassen570624
Tehama557262
Nevada474275
Tuolumne413166
Mendocino410149
Humboldt404641
Amador365847
Lake347643
Glenn239125
Colusa223416
Siskiyou223424
Calaveras212954
Inyo142838
Del Norte13938
Mono12844
Plumas7106
Modoc4994
Mariposa4487
Trinity4005
Sierra1120
Alpine880
Unassigned520
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