Crawford Introduces Bill to Help Rural Communities Fight Addiction Epidemic

WASHINGTON – Congressman Rick Crawford (AR-01) announced today the introduction of the Addiction Recovery for Rural Communities (ARRC) Act, a bipartisan bill that will help rural communities bolster their efforts to fight the opioid and addiction epidemic. Congressman Crawford joined Cheri Bustos (IL-17), Roger Marshall (KS-01) and Dwight Evans (PA-02) in introducing the legislation in the House of Representatives. Senators Joe Donnelly (D-IN), Luther Strange (R-AL) and Pat Roberts (R-KS) also introduced companion legislation in the U.S. Senate.

In 2015, more than 50,000 Americans died of drug overdoses, which are now the leading cause of death for Americans under the age of 50. This addiction crisis – particularly for heroin, opioids and prescription drugs – has been even more pronounced in rural America. In fact, drug-related deaths are nearly 50 percent higher in rural areas. But too often, rural communities lack the much-needed health care infrastructure to address this crisis.

That’s why the Addiction Recovery for Rural Communities Act would help rural Americans better leverage United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development programs to combat opioid and heroin use. Specifically, the legislation would set aside 20 percent of the USDA’s Distance Learning and Telemedicine Program grant funding for substance abuse treatment. It would also prioritize USDA Community and Facilities Direct Loan and Grant applications focused on substance abuse prevention, treatment and recovery services – which will help incentivize the establishment of new treatment centers. Finally, it will prioritize USDA Rural Health and Safety Education grant funding for applicants seeking to improve education and outreach on opioids and other substance abuse issues.

Rural communities in the Heartland are facing an addiction epidemic, and Congress must give them the resources they need to fight back,” Congresswoman Bustos said. “This bipartisan legislation will ensure that folks in small towns have access to the health care, education and tools they need to combat the drug abuse and overdoses that are devastating too many of our families and communities. The heroin and opioid epidemic knows no boundaries, and I want to thank my colleagues on both sides of the aisle for joining me to address this pressing issue.”

The cost of opioid addiction goes beyond the heartbreaking individual loss of life: there’s also law enforcement and health care costs that weigh on all of us,” Congressman Crawford said. “But in rural America, treatment can be hard to administer, and the same tactics that work in urban areas aren’t as effective in places like the 1st District. We want to do our part at the federal level to help the folks at home who are dealing with this problem day in and day out.”

We in Congress have a responsibility to provide our rural communities with the resources necessary to fight opioid abuse,” Congressman Marshall said. “Across Kansas, organizations are doing the important work of helping people escape addition and find hope – it is my goal to aid those groups in this ongoing fight.”

I am proud to stand with my colleagues in a bipartisan effort to combat the scourge of opioid and other harmful drug use in rural communities across the country,” Congressman Evans said. “We must approach this effort with a dedicated urgency as neighborhoods across rural Pennsylvania and nationwide have been ravaged by the use of opioids. As we look to put in action comprehensive solutions to tackle this devastating epidemic, it is critical for Congress to provide funding from other programs to immediately provide the lifesaving treatment to those most in need.”

Our rural communities have been hardest hit by the opioid crisis,” said Alan Morgan, CEO of the National Rural Health Association. “NRHA supports the Addiction Recovery for Rural Communities Act because it will allow rural communities that have been devastated by opioid addiction to receive prevention and treatment programs locally.”

Targeted investments in telemedicine and extension services fill a void for rural communities that lack access to health care facilities and treatment programs,” said Roger Johnson, President of the National Farmers Union. “As the opioid crisis grips rural communities across the country, the Addiction Recovery for Rural Communities Act will provide increased access to vital health care services in many of these areas. NFU applauds Reps. Bustos, Crawford, Evans and Marshall for their work in ensuring rural communities can become more proactive in their response to this crisis.”

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