U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney
U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney:
U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney

Washington – Rep. Joe Courtney on Friday sent a letter signed by more than 60 members of the U.S. House of Representatives asking President Obama  to declare an opioid and heroin abuse epidemic and designate emergency funds to help states fight what he called a “national health emergency.”

The letter – which was also signed by Reps. John Larson, D-1st District; Rosa DeLauro, D-3rd District; Jim Himes, D-4th District; and Elizabeth Esty, D-5th District – told the president that “though we support and applaud the administration’s attention to this issue through your FY 2017 budget request of over $1.1 billion to combat the issue, families in our states are suffering now and need immediate help

The letter urged Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia Mathews Burwell to use her authority to declare the opioid and heroin epidemic a public health emergency.

The letter also urged the president to press Congress to act on a bill that Courtney has recently introduced, the Opioid and Heroin Epidemic Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act, that would provide $600 million immediately to address the issue.

Emergency supplemental bills are not counted against the federal government’s spending caps.

“According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2014 1.9 million people had a prescription use disorder and nearly 600,000 had a heroin use disorder,” the letter said. “That year alone, we lost over 27,000 to opioid-related and heroin overdoses. This averages to 74 people dying each day from an overdose of prescription painkillers or heroin in the United States.”

Besides writing the president, Connecticut officials are stepping up their efforts to combat opioid abuse in other ways.

Courtney and Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., will hold a two-day summit in New London next week featuring law enforcement officers, doctors, experts and the White House’s drug czar, Michael Botticelli.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy is also holding an event on Tuesday with Botticelli and other local officials, including Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin, to discuss ways to prevent and treat prescription drug abuse and heroin use.

Meanwhile, Larson will host a screening of the HBO Documentary Film “Heroin: Cape Cod USA” on Monday evening at Goodwin College in East Hartford.

Ana has written about politics and policy in Washington, D.C.. for Gannett, Thompson Reuters and UPI. She was a special correspondent for the Miami Herald, and a regular contributor to The New York TImes, Advertising Age and several other publications. She has also worked in broadcast journalism, for CNN and several local NPR stations. She is a graduate of the University of Maryland School of Journalism.

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