Hello, I'm Kelly Ayotte, and I'm proud to represent the great state of New Hampshire in the United States Senate.
For the past few years, I've been working to bring attention to the heroin and prescription opioid abuse epidemic that is impacting my state and communities nationwide.
This is a life or death issue. In 2015, four hundred twenty New Hampshire residents lost their lives to a drug overdose—more than the number of people killed in traffic accidents. In February alone, there were 14 suspected opioid overdose deaths in Manchester—a record high in our state's largest city.
We're seeing similar trends not only in New England, but also in West Virginia, Ohio, and across the country.
But these are not just numbers. Behind every statistic and behind every headline is a life that has been lost.
A mother. A daughter. A son.
A brother. A neighbor. A friend.
This is not a Republican or Democrat issue—it affects all of us.
As I have traveled around New Hampshire, I've heard directly from our public safety community, treatment providers, addiction experts, families, and individuals in recovery about effective strategies to address this urgent problem.
On ride-alongs with the first responders in Manchester, I've seen first-hand what they're facing on the front lines—and I've witnessed their incredible efforts to save lives.
Treatment facilities in New Hampshire are working tirelessly to help individuals struggling with addiction who need our support.
I've had the opportunity to visit these facilities and hear directly from the talented people who work there. They do such important work.
And throughout New Hampshire, people are coming together to raise awareness about this epidemic in every way they can—from 5K races and rallies, to roundtables and community forums.
For some, this epidemic hits especially close to home.
Like the mother from Greenville, New Hampshire who wrote to me. She spends her days helping people living with substance use disorders, only to come home to see her own son struggling with heroin addiction. She told me: "As I tried to comfort those who have been affected by this tragedy, I think that my son will be next."
Or the high school student from Manchester who told me how concerned he is about the negative impact this epidemic is having on his city. When he walks home from school, he sometimes sees discarded needles on the sidewalk. Tragically, he lost his best friend to a fentanyl overdose.
Or the grandmother who told me she lost her granddaughter to heroin.
Reversing the tide of addiction will take a comprehensive, thoughtful approach, and must include strategies for treatment, prevention, education, support for individuals in recovery, and increased interdiction.
That is why it is so important that this week the Senate took up a strong bipartisan bill to address this crisis.
I first helped introduce the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act—or CARA—in 2014, and it has broad support across the aisle. CARA will be a significant step forward in the federal response to this epidemic and will support local efforts to tackle this problem.
CARA will provide additional support to first responders and law enforcement-like expanding availability of the life-saving overdose reversal tool, Narcan.
It will strengthen prescription drug monitoring programs to help prevent "doctor shopping" and expand drug take-back sites to promote safe disposal of unused or unwanted prescription medications.
CARA will increase access to treatment for individuals struggling with addiction. The bill also would expand prevention and education efforts in our schools, and launch a specific prescription opioid and heroin treatment and intervention effort.
And CARA would establish a campaign to bring greater awareness to the association between the misuse of prescription pain killers and heroin use, and educate the public about the dangers of abusing fentanyl—a deadly drug increasingly mixed with heroin or sold on the streets on its own.
Over 130 stakeholder groups across the country have endorsed CARA and called for its swift passage.
CARA has strong support from law enforcement, including the National Fraternal Order of Police, the Major County Sheriffs Association, the New England Association of Chiefs of Police and New Hampshire's police chiefs, who I had the privilege of working with when I was Attorney General.
Forty-two Senators on both sides of the aisle have come together to cosponsor this legislation.
A Tilton, New Hampshire resident recently wrote to me about this issue and said: "We need action, and we need it right now."
We have an opportunity to act right now to save lives in New Hampshire and across the country. And for the first responders, treatment providers, and those struggling with addiction, those in recovery, and their loved ones—we owe it to them to pass CARA. And we will. Thank you.
gopweeklyaddress. "3/5/16 Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) Delivers GOP Weekly Address on CARA and the Opioid Epidemic." YouTube video, 5:44. March 5, 2016. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZYRbdbYH4YI