The head of the U.S. bishops’ human development committee applauded the U.S. Senate for passing a bill responding to the nation’s opioid crisis, and encouraged the House of Representatives to pass the legislation as well.
“The Senate passed bill is but a first step in addressing several aspects of the opioid crisis, including support for increases in research, treatment, education, and security and law enforcement,” said Bishop Frank Dewane of Venice, Florida, in a Sept. 21 statement.
“As the midterm elections and the end of the year approach, it can be difficult to complete complex legislation during the remaining time. The opioid crisis, however, cannot wait until next year.”
Bishop Dewane chairs the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development for the U.S. bishops’ conference.
He applauded the Sept. 17 passage of the Opioid Crisis Response Act in the U.S. Senate. Sponsored by Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), the bill was approved by a vote of 99-1.
It would provide for research for new non-habit-forming painkillers, additional medication-assisted treatment and psychological services, programs to benefit babies born with opioid addiction and their mothers, and new recovery centers for opioid addiction.
Opioids, both synthetic and natural, include common prescription painkillers such as morphine, oxycodone, and fentanyl, as well as illegal drugs such as heroin.
In his statement, Bishop Dewane quoted a preliminary estimate by the Centers for Disease Control which suggested that more than 72,000 people had died in 2017 as the result of a drug overdose.
“Congress is to be applauded for the bipartisan efforts that have already occurred and should swiftly work through remaining obstacles to find effective solutions that can become law,” the bishop said.
“It is encouraging that lawmakers in Congress appear to be making progress in bipartisan legislation that would address many issues related to the crisis.”
He pointed to the words of Pope Francis: “Every drug addict has a unique personal story and must be listened to, understood, loved, and, insofar as possible, healed and purified. We cannot stoop to the injustice of categorizing drug addicts as if they were mere objects or broken machines; each person must be valued and appreciated in his or her dignity in order to enable them to be healed.”