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Honoring our Nation's Flag
Posted by on June 14, 2018

Every year Americans celebrate holidays to honor our great country, veteran’s, and military. Sadly, many people often overlook a day of observance dedicated to the one worldwide symbol of freedom and democracy -- the U.S. Flag.

Since adopted by the Continental Congress, the stars and stripes have stood by our military’s side fighting in wars, hanging up in schools and public office building, and at every sports game we turn to her when singing our national anthem, yet we seem to have forgotten its importance and vitality.

In the spirit of Flag Day and honoring our stars and stripes, I want to talk about an issue that is very important to me: protecting our flag. To that end, I am proud to sponsor H.J. Res. 61, which grants Congress constitutional authority to ban the desecration of the United States flag. 

One of the main arguments against this proposed amendment is that it will limit the First Amendment by banning flag desecration. Let me be clear – this amendment would not ban or criminalize flag desecration. This amendment simply affirms Congress’s authority to protect the United States flag by giving states the ability to take a stand on this important issue. In fact, when state laws were first passed in the 1800s, many states made it a felony for anyone to publicly mutilate, deface, defile, or intentionally display the flag on the ground or floor. By 1932, all of the States had adopted various flag desecration statutes, and eventually, upon pressure from the American people and the States, Congress passed the Flag Protection Act of 1968.

Until invalidated in 1989 by the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Texas v. Johnson, 48 states had laws banning flag desecration. This amendment ensures that the American people have the power to protect our most important national symbol by granting Congress the authority to prohibit physical desecration of the flag. Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle have supported the passage of this amendment. To date, a joint resolution giving Congress power to prohibit the physical desecration of the American flag has passed the House six times, most recently in 2005.  Passage in the Senate has fallen just short of the required 67 votes in the Senate three times, most recently in 2006.

Americans from every generation have laid down their lives under the stars and stripes to protect our country and our people. As the stewards of their memory and sacrifice, it is our duty to ensure that generations in the future understand their service was not in vain. The American people have simply given too much for the flag to not have the ability to protect it.

Full text of H.J. Res. 61 can be found here.

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Policy Update: The Carl D. Perkins Reauthorization
Posted by on August 19, 2016

In 1984, Congress authorized the Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Technical Education Act, which seeks to provide secondary and postsecondary students with the education and skills they need to succeed in the workplace. Since 1984, the Perkins Act has been reauthorized twice, the last time being in 2006, making the most recent update a decade old. 

This act authorized a range of career and technical education (CTE) programs, stretching from health care to information technology to mechanical construction. The best programs allow students to work toward certifications and apprenticeships while still in secondary school. 

As I travel throughout the Third District meeting with job creators, a constant refrain is that there are not enough people with the right skills to fill the jobs they have available. Each time I hear this, I am more and more convinced that we have duped a generation into believing the only key to success is pursuing a four-year degree. Oftentimes, students do not finish that degree, and even if they do, they are left with thousands of dollars in student debt and even worse, no job prospects. Instead of forcing students into a one-size-fits-all future, CTE education allows students to gain the skills they need to access high-demand, well-paying jobs, without the burdens often associated with other educational routes. 

On June 28, 2016, Representative Glenn Thompson of Pennsylvania introduced the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (H.R. 5587), which reauthorizes the 1984 Perkins Act. On July 7, 2016, the House Committee on Education and the Workforce reported the bill by unanimous consent. This reauthorization focuses on four main objectives: empowering state and local leaders, improving alignment with in-demand jobs, increasing transparency and accountability, and ensuring a limited federal role. 

To accomplish these objectives, the reauthorization first simplifies the application process for federal CTE funds, ensuring that this process is better-aligned with the workforce development plan that states are expected to submit under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act. By ensuring that states do not have to reinvent the wheel, it allows them to focus resources on the actual work of preparing students for their careers. 

At the same time, H.R. 5587 allows states to focus federal resources on in-demand jobs determined at the state level. One way they will do this is through prioritizing partnerships with employers in each community, allowing students to train with local companies that will be able to offer them jobs after graduation. 

The bill also ensures transparency by allowing states to create targeted levels of performance and then report the results annually. The state plans will be created through an open process that encourages input from parents, students, and state and local leaders. 

Finally, Representative Thompson’s reauthorization puts power back in the hands of the states by removing the requirement to negotiate targeted performance levels with the Secretary of Education, while at the same time, removing the Secretary’s ability to withhold funds from states –  instead allowing states to develop improvement plans to get back on target. 

I believe the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act is an important step forward in creating opportunities for the next generation, and I look forward to working with my colleagues to bring this to the President’s desk. 

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Policy Update: Fighting Zika
Posted by on August 5, 2016

Zika was first discovered in 1947 in Uganda, but it has recently spread through South and Central America. The virus itself is passed primarily through mosquito bites, although other forms of transmission have been seen. Symptoms of the virus are mild illness, including fever, rash, joint pain, and red eye. It has been linked to serious birth defects, most noticeably microcephaly in babies of mothers who were infected with the virus while pregnant, and unfortunately, there is currently no cure.

Much is still unknown about the disease, but we do know that so far, eight Arkansans have been infected while traveling. Fortunately, there have been no local infections, however as we move through the summer months, Zika is becoming an increasing threat.

I have met personally with Dr. Tom Frieden of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to discuss the response to Zika. The CDC is currently developing tests to diagnose the virus, conducting studies to learn more about the link between Zika and birth defects, providing guidance to Americans traveling to regions with current outbreaks, and monitoring the spread of the virus. Additionally, the CDC’s Emergency Operations Center was activated on January 22, 2016, to collaborate with local, national, and international response partners regarding the outbreak.

Congress has a role to play in the response, too. In February, the Obama Administration submitted an emergency discretionary appropriations request for nearly $1.9 billion in supplemental funding for Zika epidemic. Because it was requested as emergency funding, these dollars would not be subject to Budget Control Act of 2011 spending limits.

Instead of busting budget caps, at our urging, the CDC is currently funding its response to Zika with redirected Ebola dollars. To supplement these funds, the House passed the Zika Response Appropriations Act (H.R. 5243), a stand-alone supplemental appropriations bill which would provide an additional $622.1 million for this fiscal year’s response to Zika, in May. In June, the House doubled down by passing the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs and Zika Response Appropriations Act final Conference Report (H.R. 2577), which would not only provide fiscal year 2017 funding to house, train, and equip military personnel, provide housing and services to military families, help maintain base infrastructure, and provide for veterans’ benefits and programs, but the bill also furnished $1.1 billion for domestic and international efforts to fight Zika.

Unfortunately, because Senate Democrats chose to put politics over solutions, that’s where House progress stopped. When taken to the Senate Floor for a vote, Democrats balked. With each passing day, more and more women and their unborn children are at risk, and I believe it is unacceptable that politics should stop us from providing for a solution. I hope Senate Democrats recognize this sooner rather than later.

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Policy Update: Continuing Resolutions and the DoD
Posted by on July 29, 2016

Congress is currently in a District Work Period, which gives us time to stay close to home and have in-depth interactions with our constituents across our district. However, once Congress resumes session in Washington, we will have some necessary work to complete. A new fiscal year begins on October 1st, and before then, we must pass an Appropriations package that keeps the necessary functions of our government running.

As an Appropriator, I am proud of the progress we made this year – all twelve of the Appropriations bills passed the full Appropriations Committee. Starting with Military Construction and Veterans Affairs bill and ending with the Interior and Environment bill, the whole House passed five of these bills and sent them to the Senate for consideration.

This is important works. It demonstrates the House’s agreement on what the final spending package should look like, on what cuts need to be made, and on what priorities need to be funded. Without agreement between the House and Senate on what each new bill should look like, Continuing Resolutions (CR) occur – meaning necessary cuts and changes aren’t made to federal discretionary spending, but rather Congress rubber-stamps the exact same spending levels as last fiscal year.

Since I began my work in Congress in 2011, the gridlock that plagues Washington has resulted in a series of stops and starts to the federal government in a hodgepodge of Continuing Resolutions and Omnibus spending bills. While it may appear that the two are interchangeable, a CR is damaging to our essential government functions and our nation as a whole. CRs prevent new projects from starting on time – from roads to bridge repairs to community centers and Corps of Engineers projects – and ultimately make these projects more costly. And important cuts or funding limitations, like reductions in the Environmental Protection Agency budget or bans on new and harmful regulations, simply don’t go into effect.  

As a member of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, I am particularly concerned for the passage of the Defense Appropriations bill that is vital to keep the Pentagon running and our soldiers abroad taken care of for the next fiscal year. The $576 billion-dollar bill funds all functions of our military, from troop paychecks to tanks to equipment, and passed the House on June 16th. The Senate version of the bill has yet to reach the Senate floor, which means both chambers have their work cut out for them in September. A CR impacts the Department of Defense (DoD) perhaps the most of all agencies due to the complexity of the DoD’s budget and programs; impacting everything from deployments to troop pay to maintenance to weapons and platform upgrades, a CR could be the difference between our troops going into harm’s way poorly trained or operating dangerous equipment.

As a Defense Appropriator and a National Guard veteran, I believe it is unacceptable that congressional gridlock and politics should stop us from providing for our military, and I will be working hard with my colleagues to complete our work on these bills before the end of the fiscal year.

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Policy Update: GMO Labeling
Posted by on July 22, 2016

You may have heard that on July 14th, after years of debate on the issue, the House passed S.Amdt. 4937 to S. 764, a bill regulating Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) labeling. The compromise, which was considered must-pass legislation by food manufacturers and farmers alike, sets guidelines for just how far a state can go in requiring certain labeling in grocery stores in that state. The urgency in passing a bill of this nature was created by Vermont passing its own state law on mandatory food labeling, which went into effect this month and would have required food manufacturers across the nation to create an entirely different package for food to be sold in Vermont grocery stores.  

While genetically engineered foods are already monitored by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for adverse effects on health, states like Vermont wanted to place noticeable warning labels on foods containing GMOs – and, absent federal regulation, they could require such labels. And, while many manufacturers agreed that consumers had a right to know which foods contain GMOs – and were willing to create new labels for such products – there were significant concerns regarding just how expensive and restrictive a different label for each state could be. Federal guidelines were necessary to ensure that states would not each require slightly different packaging requirements that would lead to skyrocketing compliance costs for food manufacturers, resulting in higher costs at the grocery store for Americans across the nation.

The GMO labeling bill, which was a compromise between H.R. 1599 in the House and S. 764 in the Senate, would require mandatory labeling for food that the USDA deems as genetically engineered, but would allow food manufacturers to use either text, a symbol, or an electronic link to meet the national labeling requirement instead of being required to follow a patchwork of different state labeling laws. The bill passed the Senate by a vote of 63-30 on July 7th, and was approved by the House by a vote of 306-117. I was proud to vote in favor of this bill, as manufacturers and farmers in the Third District and across the state have asked for relief from state-by-state could significantly impact their businesses and the jobs they are able to create and keep in our communities.

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SkyMeadow Fine Arts Orchestra Performance
Posted by on January 19, 2016

I was honored with a performance by the SkyMeadow Fine Arts Orchestra in Yellville on January 19, 2016! What a talented group of kids.

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Policy Update: The EPA's Disingenuous Clean Power Plan
Posted by on September 4, 2015

By now, you have likely heard of the finalization of what the Obama Administration has dubbed the “Clean Power Plan” to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from new and existing power plants. Given the drastic effects this plan will have on the state of Arkansas, in this week’s newsletter (which you can sign up to receive here), I needed to offer my perspective on what I like to call an all-of-the-above energy plan and what Congress has done to address overreach by this Administration in the energy sector.

Just over one year ago, on June 2, 2014, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), under President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, proposed a plan to regulate carbon emissions from power plants across the nation, claiming newfound authority under Section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act. Upon the release of this proposal, the Administration cited the ability of this plan to “maintain an affordable, reliable energy system, while cutting pollution and protecting our health and environment now and for future generations.” This past month, the Clean Power Plan was finalized. While all of us can agree that a brighter, healthier future for generations to come is a noble and desired cause, what we disagree on is the route to get there, the effects that certain actions might actually have on the environment and the average American family, and where the authority ultimately lies to address such causes.

As I said before, I won’t argue against providing a healthier landscape for future generations. However, that’s not what the Clean Power Plan does, and the EPA’s own data makes that apparent. When touting the goodwill of this plan, the EPA regularly cites atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration, global temperature, and sea level rise. But using even the most conservative measures, again based around EPA’s own data, it is predicted that by 2050, the Clean Power Plan will result in a reduction of atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations of just 0.2 percent, a cut to global temperature of only 0.01 degrees Fahrenheit or 1/100th of a degree, and a reduction in the rise of the sea level by only 0.2 millimeters. That’s the equivalent of one or two human hairs.

Aside from environmental factors, we’ve got to ask: how will this affect people like us, our state, our resources, and our power bills? Well, again, conservative estimates have shown that the average power bill cost increase in 2025 could be around 10 percent. In the state of Arkansas alone, our reduction target for emissions is a massive 36 percent, and that is after an adjustment in the finalized plan from our original 44 percent projection. Fortunately, this adjustment also lowers Arkansas from being the 7th-most affected state to the 20th. But fortunately isn’t good enough because this rule will still come at the cost of thousands of jobs and will require countless dollars and hours to be spent on compliance for the sake of an unrelenting government agency its desired environmental legacy.

But what may be most concerning when it comes to this Administration’s never-ending regulatory overreach is the lack of authority to prescribe these policies.

I’m a Constitutional conservative, and the Constitution clearly states that legislative powers are vested in Congress. The Clean Power Plan is a clear attempt to take policy-making out of our hands. This is unacceptable, especially after the Supreme Court just came down with what was a very unexpected, yet refreshing, decision regarding another recent EPA rule (Mercury and Air Toxics Standards or MATS) and noted EPA’s disregard for any associated cost incursions. Cost aside, Arkansas’s own Attorney General has argued and continues to argue that the EPA does not possess the authority to regulate power plants under section 111(d) due to the language of the law – more-specifically, section 112 of the Clean Air Act which the EPA already uses to regulate such plants. Plain and simple, section 112 bars the EPA from invoking 111(d) authority where the “source category… is regulated under section [112].” Ms. Rutledge has thus joined a growing number of Attorneys General in asking for a stay of this rule until after the courts can have the opportunity to weigh in – something Congress has fought for as well.

This June, I joined 66 of my colleagues in not only voting for, but also cosponsoring, the Ratepayer Protection Act (H.R. 2042), introduced by Representative Ed Whitfield. This bill, which ultimately passed the House by a vote of 247-180, would give this misguided power back to both our courts and our states. By allowing compliance to first rely on judicial review and ensuring that states can protect their ratepayers from unintended consequences and significant adverse effects, we Arkansans would determine much of our own fate – something we are quite good at in the Natural state.

I have long said that as a father and grandfather, I believe it is important to leave our children both a better America and a better world. At the same time, we must carefully consider the proposals offered to combat the problems facing our country and be mindful of their pitfalls. The United States has a real opportunity in the energy sector; it can drive our economic growth. However, we will severely restrict the potential of this industry if we place additional burdens on it. And the Clean Power Plan goes far beyond that. 

I am not opposed to any and all regulation. In fact, I recognize the need for safeguards to protect the American people. Moreover, I agree that we must explore green energy alternatives. But this must be in addition to tapping into all American energy sources (oil, gas, coal, nuclear, and renewables) rather than picking winners and losers. I have serious concerns with the impact that the Clean Power Plan could have on the economy of our nation as a whole and the budgets of our fellow Arkansans. I will continue to push for its fate to reside within the Congress and the courts and for my goal of an all-of-the-above energy policy, rather than a policy of all-but-one. 

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Policy Update: Growing Concern in Ukraine
Posted by on August 28, 2015

If you are anything like me, Ukraine was not on your list of top U.S. foreign priorities before the events of 2014.  However, with Russia annexing Crimea while continuing to send troops and weapons to Ukrainian separatists, it’s become important to pay attention to Ukraine in the interest of our nation’s safety and security.  For these reasons, I decided to update you on the situation in Ukraine and the steps Congress is taking to aid the Ukrainian people in this week’s newsletter (which you can sign up to receive here).  

For the sake of review, Ukraine shares its eastern border with Russia and its western border with North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) members Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, and Romania.  Ukraine gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, and since then, its history has been a tumultuous ride led by corrupt oligarchs attempting to toe the line between Russia and the western world.  

In November 2013, the Ukrainian government made a last-minute decision – due to Russian pressure – to not sign an Association Agreement with the European Union which would have better aligned the nation with its western neighbors.  This sparked anti-government protests throughout Ukraine and led to the Yanukovych government fleeing the country.  In response, on February 27, 2014, the Ukrainian parliament approved a new government, headed by Arseniy Yatsenyuk and no key figures from the former regime.  

The same day the new government was approved, Russian Federation military forces poured into Crimea seizing airports and other key installations.  On March 16, 2014, the Crimean authorities held a questionable referendum on Crimea’s annexation to Russia.  Two days later, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a “treaty” with Crimean leaders formally incorporating Crimea into Russia.  

Since this time, Ukrainian separatists, aided by the Russian military, have been waging a bloody war throughout Ukraine.  Although cease-fires have momentarily slowed down the fighting, the war continues and calls into question the future of the balance of power in Europe.  

In response, Congress has focused on providing assistance to the new Ukrainian government and supporting sanctions against Russia.  On April 3, 2014, President Obama signed H.R. 4152 and S. 2183 into law.  These bills authorized security assistance to Ukraine and required the President to impose visa bans and asset seizures against persons in Ukraine and Russia who are responsible for undermining the peace, security, stability, and sovereignty of Ukraine.  They also increase broadcasting in eastern Ukraine, Crimea, and Moldova to counteract Russian propaganda.  At this point our security assistance has focused on training and technical help, and we have not sent any defensive weaponry to Ukraine.  However, the military has rotated various units throughout Europe and on August 24, 2015, U.S. and allied paratroopers staged the largest airborne exercise in Europe since the end of the Cold War.  

Within the past year, I had the privilege of visiting Ukraine, as well as hear Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko address a Joint Session of Congress.  Through these experiences, I am convinced that the situation in Ukraine cannot be ignored.  Putin is currently testing what the world will allow, and I, along with many of my colleagues, believe the U.S. must work closely with NATO to formulate clear policy that will deter Russia from further aggression.  As your Representative, I will continue to fight for foreign policy that ensures a safe world for our children and grandchildren.  

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Policy Update: Education Reform
Posted by on August 21, 2015

I’ll be the first to tell you that education has not always been a focal point in Congress, but it is increasingly becoming one of the most critical domestic issues facing our country. As such, in this week’s newsletter (which you can sign up to receive here), I wanted to share my views on education reform and update you on the work Congress is doing to improve and strengthen our education system.

America continues to decline globally when it comes to student achievement; we rank 20th in science and 27th in math out of the 34 Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries. And we continue to spend more money on education than these countries – $11,841 per student on elementary and secondary education and $26,021 per student on postsecondary education, respectively–35 percent and 200 percent higher than the OECD average. We must take a step back and reevaluate what’s working and what isn’t. While it is certainly important to provide adequate resources, all too often we look to increased funding to solve inadequacies and increase student achievement, rather than looking at fundamentally reforming our education system through innovation, greater state control of their own classrooms, and eliminating burdensome regulations. 

In a perfect world, from an early age, parents would have the ability to compare, evaluate, and select the best education for their child based on their specialized needs regardless of income, zip code, or social stature.  Now, that is a lofty goal, but there are steps we must start taking now to move closer to such a system for our students and for America to remain competitive globally. 

There’s no silver bullet that will alleviate the issues facing our education system, but many will agree that what we’re doing right now simply isn’t working and that we can do better. In Congress, the House took a critical step to improve K-12 education by passing the Student Success Act (H.R. 5) in July. This bill gives states, rather than the federal government, the power to adopt standards for math, reading, and science and explicitly prohibits the federal government from coercing states into adopting uniform federal standards, such as Common Core. It also eliminates the federal Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) evaluation, allows states to develop their own school-accountability systems, requires student assessments of math and reading standards only once per year, allows low-income students’ funding to transfer between schools through Title I portability, and consolidates 65 unnecessary programs into a Local Academic Flexible Grant to allow individual schools to determine how to best meet students’ needs. Overall, the Student Success Act strives to put decision-making back in the hands of our states and communities – where it belongs. I continue to be impressed with the innovation taking place at the state and local levels and by the initiative Governors are taking despite the haphazard federal intrusion that has reached an all-time high over the past decade.

The Senate passed its own reforms in the Every Child Achieves Act of 2015 (S. 1177), and it will need to be conferenced with H.R. 5 to work out the differences. For the sake of our students, I remain hopeful that this will happen sooner rather than later.

I believe we also need to expand educational options – especially higher education. This is why I proudly joined Congressman Jason Smith (R-MO-8) to introduce H.R. 3409, a bill to help make college more affordable by allowing students to earn tax-free, work-based scholarships at Work Colleges, like Ecclesia right here in Springdale, Arkansas. With the cost of college skyrocketing across our nation and 53 percent of college graduates being under or unemployed, work colleges provide an excellent opportunity for students to earn a valuable degree at little-to-no cost while gaining critical hands-on work experience prospective employers desire. I cannot stress enough the importance of making critical reforms to higher education to ensure students and parents have the necessary information to evaluate higher education institutions, in order to have the ability to make the best financial choice.

But we can’t stop at work colleges. I believe we need to have a greater focus on career and technical education, sometimes referred to as “vocational training.” For years, there has been a certain stigma attached to choosing a vocational education route, but increasingly, employers are looking for technical skills – obtained from an associate degree or a technical certificate, not a liberal arts degree – to fill their good-paying jobs. I applaud our state for recognizing that with a changing economy and labor force, our education system must also adapt and continue to evolve in order to serve as an effective pipeline for preparing students for the workforce or higher education. It will most certainly ensure that Arkansas’s students are employable and companies are drawn to Arkansas, which helps ensure a growing, thriving local economy.

Many high schools are even beginning to offer opportunities to earn these credentials before high school graduation and are working with local businesses to streamline curriculum and facilitate job opportunities for students right out of high school. With 20 percent of students never reaching their high school graduation and only roughly half of students who seek a bachelor’s degree completing the degree within six years, I am encouraged by this greater, concerted effort to make students aware at an earlier age the options available for them.

As the debate on education reform continues in Congress, I will continue to pursue ways to promote educational reform and help alleviate states from burdensome federal education regulations that will continue to impede states’ abilities to leverage technology and innovation to deliver a more high quality, cost-effective education to the next generation.

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Policy Update: Combatting Opioid Addiction
Posted by on August 14, 2015

For the past seven months, the 114th Congress has been hard at work on the issues facing America. But there still is much to be done. 

In this week’s newsletter (which you can sign up to receive here), I thought I would bring to your attention one of the bills I hope will join the 49 that have been signed into law so far this Congress – and that’s the Opioid Addiction Treatment Modernization Act (H.R. 2872), which Congressman Larry Bucshon, M.D. (R-IN-8) and I introduced on June 24, 2015. 

The United States is in the midst of an opioid overdose epidemic.  Fueled by the dramatic increase in the use of illicit prescription opioids and heroin, the number of prescription drug overdoses have tripled, while heroin overdose deaths have increased five-fold in the past decade.  Unfortunately, Arkansas is not spared.  Our overdose mortality rates have more than doubled and remain higher than the national average. 

The impact on our communities is devastating.  According to the Office of National Drug Control Policy, the economic cost of drug abuse in the United States was estimated at $193 billion in 2007 (last available estimate).  Of this amount, 62 percent was attributable to workplace costs (e.g., lost productivity), 31 percent to criminal justice costs, and 7 percent to health care costs (e.g., abuse treatment).

In spite of investment in opioid addiction treatments at the federal level, the problem has worsened substantially… and now, nearly 70 Americans lose their lives each day due to opioid overdose.  If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times – bureaucratic red tape is part of the problem. 

The National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) defines addiction as a chronic, relapsing brain disease that is characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences.  Yet, among all diseases, opioid addiction is unique because the federal government has legislated clinical treatment requirements.  

Over the past 50 years, the federal government has refined legislation and guidelines governing the treatment of opioid addiction in specialized “opioid treatment programs” (OTPs) that are permitted to offer methadone maintenance therapy.  In 2000, Congress passed the Drug Addiction Treatment Act of 2000 (DATA 2000), which allowed physicians to apply for a waiver to prescribe buprenorphine products for the treatment of opioid addiction at Office-Based Opioid Treatment (OBOT) programs.  While today we know this not to be the case, during FDA-approval trials buprenorphine was believed to be non-addictive and have a lower risk of abuse, addiction, and side effects compared to methadone.  Therefore, the regulations written for OBOTs are less strict than those that govern OTPs.  Consequently, the treatment a patient receives is almost entirely based upon where they seek treatment rather than on their specific clinical needs.

If we are to attempt to reverse incidence of opioid dependence and the increasing numbers of opioid overdoses and opioid-related deaths associated with prescription drug and heroin addiction, medication-assisted therapy is an essential tool and patients must have access to all FDA-approved treatment options.  

The Opioid Addiction Treatment Modernization Act modernizes the segregated addiction treatment system to ensure that opioid-dependent patients are provided with individualized, evidence-based treatment by requiring that both OBOT and OTP providers are trained on and provide – either directly or by referral – all FDA-approved opioid addiction treatment medications based on the clinical needs of the patients, as determined by the physician.  Additionally, the bill requires both addiction treatment settings to provide relapse prevention counseling and medication adherence monitoring, as well as develop individualized treatment plans and diversion control plans. 

In 2013, NIDA estimated that 22.7 million Americans (8.6 percent) needed treatment for a problem related to drugs or alcohol, but only about 2.5 million people (0.9 percent) received treatment at a specialty facility.  Once enacted, H.R. 2872 will allow health care professionals – working with their patients – to prescribe the most appropriate treatments based upon the patient’s individual needs, ultimately helping us bridge the “treatment gap” and providing our country an important tool to combat the opioid epidemic.  

I am proud to join Congressman Bucshon in the fight to bring much-needed reforms to the segregated opioid addiction treatment system and help ensure that opioid-dependent patients are provided with individualized, evidence-based care, and I am hopeful that we will be able to count the Opioid Addiction Treatment Modernization Act as another victory of the 114th Congress.

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