Kerrigan Plan For Opioid Addiction and Recovery

Every family, neighborhood and community within our country has not been affected by the epidemic of opioid-related addiction and deaths. Drug overdoses have now become the leading cause of accidental death in the United States.

Families throughout our 3rd Congressional District have been devastated, our communities damaged and scarred.

There were opioid-related deaths in all but two of the communities in the 3rd District the last five years measured by the government. From 2001 to 2015, the total number of opioid-related deaths in the 3rd District more than doubled.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, opioids (including prescription opioids, heroin and fentanyl) killed more than 42,000 people in 2016, more than any year on record. That is more than ten times the number of people killed on 9/11, and early data for 2017 show no signs of the epidemic abating. 

In the weeks and months after the 9/11 attacks , we completely transformed our national government’s structure and policies on border security, air travel safety, intelligence coordination and homeland defense.

To date, the federal government has failed us in response to this crisis. Communities throughout the district need to rise up, insist more and not to ‘we’re trying as hard as we can’ for an acceptable answer.

The President’s Commission On Combating Drug Addiction and The Opioid Crisis said, as a nation, we must do “anything and everything … to stop the dying caused from within.” And many people are working hard to stem the tide and bring an end to the needless death and misery brought on by opioid addiction. But we know it’s not enough and our federal government is failing our people, our families and our communities.

Massachusetts, state and local officials are coordinating and working well to reverse these disturbing trends. But we cannot tackle this scourge alone. It is past time for the federal government to bring a national response equal to scope of problem.

As the Representative in Congress, I will make addressing the opioid epidemic a top priority with a focus on the following objectives and initiatives:

Declare the Opioid Crisis as a National Emergency

  • The President must declare the Opioid crisis a national emergency, not simply a public health emergency, and commit the funding necessary for states to combat this problem.
  • Massachusetts has worked hard to provide funding for beds, treatment and education but those still suffering in our state need the federal government to step up and help.
  • Because state governments cannot run deficits, every state dollar that is committed to the opioid crisis necessarily takes away from other areas that need attention.  

Increase Access to Treatment

  • Knowing that access to treatment can be the difference between life and death, we must increase the number of detox and residential treatment beds and establish new recovery centers within the District.
  • Fight all efforts to cap and block grant Medicaid funding to states which would result in billions of dollars in health care cuts in Massachusetts and curtail the Baker Administration’s efforts to use Medicaid funds to expand opioid treatment options.
  • Incentivize health care providers to create more treatment beds that last longer than simple five- to seven-day detoxification treatment and work to ensure that mental health and detox beds are not the first to go in any future cuts by health providers.
  • Similarly work with insurance companies to establish coverage for treatment beyond detox, which is critical to end the damaging cycle where patients go in and out of detox without further treatment. This cycle leads to higher risk of overdose for patients once they leave detox because of dips in their tolerance levels.
  • Establish a hotline within my district office for anyone seeking treatment to get referrals and access to available treatment beds.
  • Employ at least one social worker on constituent-services staff who can assist patients in navigating insurance coverage and treatment options.

Change Prescribing Behaviors of Doctors

  • As part of the national emergency declaration, the federal government must take a more urgent approach to setting clear guidelines for physicians regarding the prescribing of opioids for pain.   
  • Currently, federal responsibility for educating health professionals about opioids has been spread among the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration, the Office of the Surgeon General, the National Institute of Drug Abuse and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration. These efforts must be coordinated and streamlined with new regulations and clear and consistent guidelines put forth on an emergency timeline.   
  • Support the National Institutes for Health with funding for research into other non-opioid methods to address chronic pain.
  • Expand insurance coverage for chiropractic, acupuncture, yoga, and other forms of treatment.
  • Work with state prosecutors and regulators to rid our communities of doctors and health care providers who egregiously over-prescribe and pharmacists that illegally dispense medications. 

Increase Public Awareness By All Available Means

  • Starting with better health education in our schools on the dangers of opioids, alcohol and other drugs to community meetings and social media, like Facebook and Twitter, we must do all we can to increase public awareness about the dangers of opioids, reduce the stigma and publicize the options available for those at risk or facing addiction.
  • Increase federal grant money to establish more sites for safe disposal of unused medicines and Take-Back Days.
  • Convene and support coordination of public officials, health care, and academics to study and improve efforts related to addiction, treatment and recovery services.
  • Identify and convene all organizations within the district working to end addiction and promote treatment and rehabilitation to share best practices and improve outcomes.  

Support Enforcement Against Illegal Drug Distribution  

  • Support local police departments, state police and DA’s, and federal authorities in their efforts to identify and stop the major traffickers who bring heroin, fentanyl and other illicit synthetic opioids into our neighborhoods, while fighting the Trump/Sessions Justice Department’s outdated policies that seek to criminalize users.
  • Support funding for the expansion of programs that prioritize rehabilitation over incarceration for non-violent drug offenders, including programs within federal and state prisons and county Houses of Correction.