Federal lawmakers, concerned over soaring numbers of heroin overdose cases and prescription drug abusers, ushered in the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) and 21st Century Cures Act with great fanfare. Now, says shore Representative Tom MacArthur (R-3), it's time to secure the money to support them.

Representatives Tom MacArthur and Annie Kuster. (courtesy Kate Pudwill)
Representatives Tom MacArthur and Annie Kuster. (courtesy Kate Pudwill)

The second-term Republican, who co-chairs the Bipartisan Heroin Task Force with Democrat Congresswoman Annie Kuster (NH-02), issued his demand Wednesday, in the form of testimony before the Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies, tied to the House Appropriations Committee.

MacArthur testified on the same day that New Jersey Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino accounted for 31 doctors and other medical professionals who either saw their licenses revoked or suspended, or underwent disciplinary action related to opiate abuse issues in 2016 in the Garden State.

The testimony also coincides with the runup to WOBM's community forum on Ocean County's heroin crisis, March 20 in the Grunin Center at Ocean County College in Toms River. Attendees will be encouraged to pose questions to a panel of experts.

Drug syringe and cooked heroin on spoon

Panelists include Ocean County Prosecutor Joseph Coronato, Sheriff Mike Mastronardy, recovery expert John Brogan of Toms River, and Anthony Castellano, Vice-President of Substance Abuse Services for Preferred Behavioral Health.

MacArthur said, in part, "Last year, the Bipartisan Heroin Task Force helped shape and pass the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) and the 21st Century Cures Act. Both of these landmark pieces of legislation authorized funding to combat the heroin epidemic. It's now up to Congress to appropriate these funds that will provide critical support to our state and local governments currently fighting this crisis."

"Last year, Congress made a promise to help our communities - now Congress needs to fulfill that promise," he said. "I have seen this epidemic up close and personal. In Ocean County, NJ - my home county - someone dies of an overdose every 43 hours, so I'm urging Congress to act now and give our states the resources they need to fight back against this epidemic."

The subcommitee Chairman and Deputy Majority Whip, Representative Tom Cole (OK-04), added his support.

"In 2015, drug and opioid overdose caused more deaths than motor vehicle accidents," Cole said. "On average, a death involving an opioid occurs every 16 minutes. To address this problem, the House Fiscal Year 2017 bill proposed to increase funding for substance abuse by over 180 percent. I support funding for the programs authorized in both the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act and 21st Century Cures Act."

House appropriations subcommittees also heard from members of the task force including Kuster, and Representatives Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-08) and Patrick Meehan (PA-07).

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