Senate Commerce Committee Holds Hearing on Opioid Crisis

WASHINGTON, DC – Senator Dan Sullivan (R-AK) today attended a hearing of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee on the health and safety of athletes, including issues of opioid abuse by athletes. Among the witnesses was Dr. Jay Butler, Alaska’s chief medical officer, current president of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, and a leader in the effort to combat Alaska’s opioid epidemic.  

“With front-page news today of a massive spike in heroin overdoses in the Anchorage area, Alaskans are rightly concerned about the progress being made against this persistent crisis affecting many of our communities and families,” said Senator Sullivan. “I want to thank Chairman Thune for agreeing to convene the full Commerce Committee on this major public health concern, Dr. Butler for bringing his expertise and Alaska’s experiences before the committee, and to the other panelists for sharing their perspectives and insights. Raising awareness and educating students, parents, coaches, and health care providers about the risks of prescription opioid abuse is one of the many fronts on which we need to combat this crisis.”

In the hearing, Dr. Butler emphasized the need for an all-hands-on-deck approach, saying, “The effective response to this epidemic will be a team sport. It will involve coaches, parents, trainers, and the athletes themselves, as well as organizations, including professional, scholastic and amateur sports leagues, public health agencies, health care providers, third party payers, the criminal justice system, educators, businesses and lawmakers.”

Witnesses and senators alike emphasized the importance of education and awareness, as many people – athletes and non-athletes – do not understand the risks associated with prescription opioids.

“Talking to people in recovery I frequently hear, ‘No one told me and if I had had any idea how dangerous these drugs were, I never would have taken them,’” Dr. Butler said.

Senator Sullivan concluded, “I’ll continue to work in the Senate to help states, local organizations and law enforcement get the resources they need to educate the public, effectively respond to overdoses, and prevent individuals from falling into the trap of addiction.”

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