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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: 359733

Reported Deaths: 4295
CountyCasesDeaths
Multnomah56103709
Washington39002324
Marion37013454
Clackamas29983309
Lane27945302
Jackson23165310
Deschutes20559125
Umatilla14521150
Linn13048131
Douglas12196250
Josephine9430197
Yamhill8752113
Klamath8081119
Polk740581
Malheur565278
Benton555331
Coos507894
Columbia386044
Jefferson379553
Lincoln324239
Union321149
Crook293946
Wasco291141
Clatsop244728
Baker204129
Tillamook197932
Hood River194737
Morrow185723
Curry181325
Harney114427
Grant100213
Lake94812
Wallowa69312
Gilliam1564
Sherman1523
Wheeler1101
Unassigned00

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 4855616

Reported Deaths: 71443
CountyCasesDeaths
Los Angeles148576926552
Riverside3716705041
San Diego3682674196
San Bernardino3586775720
Orange3251235578
Sacramento1596362313
Kern1472941652
Fresno1463182094
Santa Clara1455431897
Alameda1206921415
San Joaquin1027761721
Ventura1010381167
Contra Costa1000181008
Stanislaus867381338
Tulare80375978
San Francisco54440649
San Mateo54168623
Monterey50911586
Solano46063341
Santa Barbara45223523
Merced42422581
Sonoma40997404
Placer39435429
Imperial36071766
Kings32938325
San Luis Obispo29973333
Madera23955285
Shasta23924354
Butte23818273
Santa Cruz21034221
Yolo20397248
Marin17706244
El Dorado17207149
Sutter13937175
Napa12898100
Yuba1011582
Tehama9534110
Humboldt9269109
Nevada916790
Mendocino766788
Lassen761848
San Benito744974
Tuolumne691790
Lake6631105
Amador547364
Siskiyou451246
Glenn438433
Calaveras391481
Del Norte358742
Colusa307618
Inyo214241
Mono16723
Plumas16607
Mariposa137017
Trinity88011
Modoc6895
Sierra1880
Unassigned1460
Alpine1050
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