Leader McCarthy Speaks on the Opioid Crisis
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (CA-23) spoke on the House floor today in support of H.R. 6, the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act.
Full remarks are below, or watch online here.
“Mr. Speaker, I rise today to urge the passage of H.R. 6—which contains more than 50 opioid-related bills we have considered the past two weeks.
“We in this body have the opportunity nearly every day to approve legislation of great consequence to millions of people.
“But rarely do the consequences feel so immediate—so vital—as they do for the opioids package we are considering.
“That is because this legislation has to do with the deadliest drug crisis in our nation’s history.
“The grim truth is this: More Americans have died from drug overdoses since the turn of the century than died in the Civil War.
“Yes, you heard that right. In less than two decades, more than 630,000 people have died because of drugs. Half of those deaths had to do with opioids.
“This death toll is the “American carnage” that President Trump was referring to in his inaugural address.
“My hometown of Bakersfield has been devastated by illegal drugs—mostly heroin and meth.
“In 2016 alone, 54 people in my county died of an opioid overdose. That is a statistic made up of 54 stories of unimaginable sadness.
“Stories of happy families torn apart by deceit, abuse, and death. Stories about parents robbed of children, children robbed of parents, and friends robbed of friends.
“My local news talked to one man in Bakersfield who has lost four friends to overdoses in the past few years alone.
“Of course, these tragedies are not confined to my district. They are happening everywhere. Across the country. Coast to coast.
“So I’d like to tell another story—this time from the other side of the country.
“It is the story of Eamon Eric Callanan, age 28. He did not live to see 29.
“Eamon came from a family with deep roots in Rochester, New York.
“One of his great-grandfathers was chief of police in Rochester. His grandfather was a judge. His parents are attorneys.
“They were the very definition, in other words, of a law-abiding family.
“But in early 2012, a series of events took place that sent Eamon down a different path—and stole him from his family forever.
“Eamon, age 25, hurt his back while on the job. He began taking opioid painkillers in response to his pain.
“And when the pills became too expensive, Eamon switched to heroin.
“Before long, the loyal, goofy kid his family once knew was gone.
“Drugs had dampened the beautiful music of his life and turned it into a sorrowful echo.
“Eamon Eric Callanan died of a drug overdose on June 8, 2016. Last Wednesday marked the two-year anniversary of his funeral.
“In many respects, Eamon’s story is not unique. He was one of 169 people in his county—42,000 people in our country—to die of an opioid overdose that year. Eamon was just one body in a grim tide of overdose deaths.
“So why am I telling you his story?
“I am telling it to remind you that each one of those victims had a name, and a life—and friends and family who they loved and left behind.
“One of the people Eamon loved—and who loves him deeply in return—is sitting in this chamber right now. Her name is Erin. She is Eamon’s sister—and my press secretary. Erin was 24 days from her wedding when she learned she would never see her brother again—that he would not be there to celebrate with her on one of the happiest days of her life.
“Let that be a lesson to us all: There is no event so joyful, no place so safe, that it is untouched by the drug crisis.
“Even a wedding chapel. Even here, in the halls of power . . . Even in my office.
“Mr. Speaker, if we hope to defeat the deadliest drug crisis in history we will need the biggest response in history.
“Rest assured that the response is already underway, led by this administration and this Congress.
“We are wrapping up voting on more than 50 bills to help the millions of Americans affected by the opioid crisis.
“We are about to vote on a package that contains almost all of those bills—H.R. 6.
“Among others, it contains a bill by Congressman Mike Bishop that will reduce the flow of Chinese fentanyl into our country by giving law enforcement new tools to detect suspicious packages in the mail.
“And it includes a reform to the so-called “IMD exclusion,” an outdated regulation that restricts Medicaid funding for large inpatient treatment programs—programs with the potential to heal substance-abuse patients like Eamon.
“Those are just two of the important bills that are part of this package.
“It is no exaggeration to say that they can save lives . . . and save families from the immeasurable grief of losing a loved one to an overdose.
“Yes, I am confident these bills will help stem the tide of drug abuse.
“But I will end on a note of caution. If defeating the opioid crisis is left to government alone, then we will surely fail.
“Healing the wounds of drug abuse will take more than this body can provide.
“It will take the commitment by every citizen to fulfill our duties to one another.
“We have all been touched by this tragedy, so we all have a part to play in its resolution.
“That means supporting people near us who are struggling with drug addiction.
“It means rebuilding families and towns torn apart by isolation, addiction, distrust, and death.
“And it means supporting the many charities, ministries, and non-profits that are already healing the sick in our communities.
“In Bakersfield, that means groups like The Mission, a Christian charity I volunteer at.
“The Mission operates a faith-based addiction recovery program that is changing lives—even knitting together families that have come apart at the seams.
“Because of The Mission, a husband and wife with five children overcame their past of drug addiction and drug dealing—and they did it together. Then they convinced their niece to get clean, too. We need more stories like that.
“This House has a chance to do its part to ensure that more stories of abuse and despair have their own happy ending.
“We will do this work for the healers and protectors, for the suffering—and for all those like Eamon who are now at rest.
“I yield the floor.”