Following District-Wide Tour, Larsen Aims to Use Feedback, Stories to Keep Fighting Washington’s Opioid Epidemic

Aug 18, 2016 Issues: Health Care

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Today, Rep. Rick Larsen (WA-02) concluded an expansive tour of Washington’s 2nd Congressional District where he held a series of events with law enforcement, health officials, advocates, community leaders, and elected officials to discuss new tools made available by the recently passed bipartisan Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act and to hear directly from stakeholders as to what additional support is needed to address the opioid epidemic.

 “We are witnessing a sea change when it comes to the conventional wisdom about addiction,” said Larsen. “Over these past two weeks I saw that sea change first hand, with Washingtonians in agreement that addiction is not a moral failing but rather a medical condition that can and should be addressed through treatment. The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act takes steps in the right direction, but from Everett to Bellingham I heard from communities that need additional resources to match the magnitude of the problem they face – and I am ready to take the ideas, feedback and stories I heard back to the House to continue helping our law enforcement, health officials and community leaders take on this epidemic.” 

See highlights of Larsen’s tour at https://www.facebook.com/RepRickLarsen and https://www.youtube.com/CongressmanLarsen/

Larsen’s tour included discussions in Bellingham, Mount Vernon, Island County, and Everett that centered on how the opioid epidemic – which frequently overlaps with issues of mental health and homelessness – is straining local social service organizations and what steps communities are taking to address the crisis. Larsen also toured a local needle exchange program in Snohomish County and participated in a homeless community outreach program run by the Snohomish County Sherriff’s Office of Neighborhoods.

In Washington, roughly 600 people die annually due to opioids – a figure that increased by 31 percent between 2002 and 2013. Snohomish County alone saw nearly 20 percent of Washington's heroin-related deaths between 2011 and 2013 though it represents less than 10 percent of the statewide population. 

Last month, Larsen helped pass the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, legislation that makes critical reforms to address the nation’s opioid epidemic. The bill includes a variety of reforms Larsen has called for including expanded access to lifesaving overdose reversal drugs and improved pain management and prescription practices. However, the bill does not fulfill President Obama’s $1.1 billion funding request which Larsen pressed for earlier this year.

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