The reported numbers on the effects of opioid addiction in our country are mind-boggling. More Americans have died from opioid overdoses than those who gave their lives in Vietnam, Afghanistan, and the Iraq wars combined. According to a Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) report in 2017, two million children live in households with at least one parent who had an illicit drug use disorder.

Nebraska is not immune. Our families are losing sons, daughters, parents, and loved ones to this ravaging epidemic.

Sadly, whether it’s from a person while on the road or through correspondence with my office, I hear stories of loss and addiction far too often. It’s why I have worked to secure millions of federal dollars for our state to fight back and develop innovative approaches to stop the spread of this crisis with targeted, effective treatments.

With the support of medical professionals and law enforcement communities across Nebraska, I voted to pass the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act in 2016. The legislation served as an important, forward-looking step that provided much-needed funding to law enforcement and first responders to bolster training and resources. This funding also expanded efforts to educate Nebraskans on the dangers of opioids and highlight treatment and recovery programs that stand ready to provide vital care to those who desperately need it.

That same year, the Senate reinforced our nation’s commitment to this fight by passing the 21st Century Cures Act. I was proud to vote for this legislation, which provided over $4 million in grant funding for our state since 2017.

Now, because of our efforts, we’re seeing some glimmers of hope. A recent report by SAMHSA has shown that heroin and prescription drug abuse declined last year. According to the report, the number of people who misused opioids fell from 11.4 million to 10.3 million.

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Gov. Ricketts recently announced that Nebraska is the first state to designate federal funds towards training addiction medicine specialists. The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, the Attorney General’s office, and the University of Nebraska Medical Center have worked together to launch an addiction medicine fellowship program. The fellowship will provide a comprehensive one-year training program that focuses on treating opioid addiction patients of all ages.

This encouraging news comes in addition to a court case that made national headlines. A judge in Oklahoma recently ordered healthcare company Johnson and Johnson to pay $572 million for their actions that fueled the opioid crisis.

Nebraskans understand that if we are going to win this battle, it will require a combined effort from local, state, and federal officials – and that’s exactly what we are doing. As the Lincoln Journal Star reported, our state is “firing on all cylinders” in our efforts to put funding to good use and combat addiction.

Through tireless work, we’re now witnessing signs of light in our fight against this terrible epidemic. Results like these don’t happen on their own, and I’m proud of Nebraska’s role in leading this recovery. Moving forward, I’ll be working hard to ensure Nebraska has the resources it needs to build on this progress so that together we can continue to save lives.

Thank you for participating in the democratic process. I look forward to visiting with you again next week.

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