Barletta Statement: Hearing on "The Opioid Epidemic in Appalachia: Addressing Hurdles to Economic Development in the Region"
Chairman Lou Barletta (R-PA)
The purpose of today’s hearing is to examine the impact of the opioid crisis on economic development in Appalachia.
The opioid crisis has touched the lives of countless Americans. This public health emergency has taken the lives of far too many of our nation’s citizens, and has had significant adverse effects on our economy and labor force participation.
As the subcommittee with jurisdiction over a number of economic development agencies – including the Appalachian Regional Commission – we are specifically focusing today on the ways the opioid crisis has affected the Appalachian workforce, and efforts to promote economic development in the region.
The opioid epidemic has profoundly affected all of our districts and uprooted the lives of so many of our constituents. Ninety-one Americans die every single day from an opioid overdose. In my home state of Pennsylvania, 4,642 drug-related overdose deaths were reported in 2016.
In 2015, there were 5,594 overdose deaths in Appalachia – a drug-related death rate 65% higher than the rest of the nation. Sixty-nine percent of these deaths were caused by opioids. An overwhelming majority of these deaths throughout Appalachia were individuals between the ages of 25 and 44, people who were in their prime working years.
These troubling statistics make it clear that the opioid crisis is not only destroying lives, it has created a significant challenge to workforce expansion and economic development throughout Appalachia.
This crisis is economically disastrous for our nation. This past month, the White House office of economic advisers released a report that estimated the opioid epidemic cost our nation $504 billion dollars in 2015. That is an important number to remember as we begin today’s hearing because it points to the lost potential for economic activity and productivity in communities battling opioid addiction – that is our focus here today.
To that end, I remind our witnesses and my fellow Members that this subcommittee’s jurisdiction is economic development programs and the Appalachian Regional Commission. We have no oversight of the Department of Justice, or the DEA.
Our goal is to have a hearing that this subcommittee can use to inform our committee’s decisions regarding agencies within our jurisdiction. Therefore, I would ask that all testimony and questions be confined to the issues within our jurisdiction.
Further, I would like to reiterate that today’s hearing is meant to be bipartisan. The opioid crisis does not recognize political parties. I think we can all agree – Republicans and Democrats alike – that the priority here is finding solutions for the communities and families who are being devastated by this epidemic, not playing politics with peoples’ lives.
Just a few days ago, the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee showed what it can accomplish when we work in a bipartisan fashion. We unanimously approved the Disaster Recovery Reform Act because of the good work that was started here in this subcommittee. Let’s continue to work in the same fashion here today to look for solutions within the programs and agencies under our jurisdiction.
It is my hope that today we can come together to examine the impact of opioids in Appalachia and the ways in which existing federal economic development programs can help states and communities address and combat this growing epidemic.
I am sure our witnesses today will help us answer these questions.
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