News from Representative Tom Emmer

Dear Friend,

I am a proud father of seven beautiful children and for a few of my boys, I was also their hockey coach.

I had the distinct pleasure of coaching my second son’s best friend, Brett, for years. He was a star on and off the ice.

Starting with a knee injury and prescription pain pills, and ending in a heroin overdose, Brett lost his life to addiction. He was 21.

Not a day goes by that I don’t think about and remember Brett.

I know I’m not alone. More than 63,000 people died from a drug overdose in 2016 - roughly 174 people every day. We are losing our sons and daughters; brother and sisters; mothers and fathers; colleagues and neighbors; friends and loved ones. 

For every one of those lives lost, hundreds more will never be the same, including mine.

Last week, along with Senators Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith, I was invited to speak at the Shared Solutions Summit hosted by the Minnesota Association of Resources for Recovery and Chemical Health (MARRCH).

Listen to my remarks here.

Congress has passed a number of large spending bills to provide assistance to state and local efforts, like the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), which I was proud to cosponsor, and the 21st Century Cures Act, which I also supported.

And while I agree additional resources for our states are needed, I also believe Congress can do more than sign checks. 

The reality is: A complex problem will not be solved by a simple solution.

Our nation’s addiction crisis will not be solved by one law, one pill, one billion dollars, one program, one doctor, or one system.

Real solutions require honest discussions about what is working and what is not working.

For Brett, and for the thousands of others who lost their life to addiction, we have to do better.

Share your thoughts on how Congress can turn the tide on this crisis by writing to me here and be sure to follow me on Facebook and Twitter.


P.S. Mark your calendars for Saturday, April 28, 2018 the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) National Prescription Drug Take Back DayClick here and search DEA’s Diversion Control Division website to find a collection site near you.

Top 6 Takeaways from MARRCH Shared Solutions Summit:

  1. We must address our nation’s “treatment gap,” caused in part by the poor quality and lack of access to evidence-based care, especially in rural areas of the country. In 2016, 20.1 million individuals had a substance use disorder and needed treatment. 89 percent did not receive it. Mostly this is due to the fact that those treatment options don’t exist, especially in rural America.

  2. In step with the lack of access, there is an incredible lack of mental health providers. In fact, half the counties in America have no psychologist, no psychiatrist, and no clinical social worker.

  3. Stigma. Despite the growing science on the impact of substances on the addictive process and the structure and function of the brain, addictions continue to be viewed by many as a moral issue reflecting an intentional choice by drug users who lack willpower. We simply do not treat addiction like the chronic disease it is.

  4. The 21st Century Cures Act promised $1 billion, half of which has already been doled out, but disappointingly states have been slow to actually spend that money. In fact, more than three-quarters of the money we gave to states remains unspent. This is unacceptable.

  5. Most opioid overdose deaths involve another substance. One study showed that 80 percent of individuals with an opioid use disorder had another substance use disorder. Deaths from psychostimulant use increased 255 percent from 2005-2015, with 85-90 percent involving methamphetamine. Unfortunately, this is a problem that hits us hard at home. Recently, the Saint Cloud Times reported meth seizures in Minnesota increased for the 8th year in a row, about 28% statewide from 2017. (This is on top of the 300% increase in the past 4 years).

  6. Congress passed, and I supported, the largest mental health reform bill in a half century, the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act, which was signed into law in 2016. This comprehensive overhaul provided real reforms like:

    - Established an Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use. Dr. Elinore McCance-Katz, MD was appointed and unanimously confirmed by the Senate August 3, 2017.

    - Established a training program for medical residents and fellows to encourage practice of psychiatry and addiction in underserved areas.

    - Provided a path for state and local governments to develop databases of beds at inpatient psychiatric facilities, crisis stabilization units, and residential community mental health and residential substance use disorder treatment facilities.

Watch my full speech here.

I want to encourage diversity and creativity in our thoughts and discussions for how we truly solve our nation’s addiction crisis. Unfortunately, as it has gotten worse, our solutions have become more simplistic. 

Share your solutions with me here.

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