Opioid Epidemic Hearing Wrap Up: Biden Must Secure the Border to Slow the Opioid Epidemic

WASHINGTON—The House Committee on Oversight and Reform today held its second hearing on the Sackler family and Purdue Pharma to review their role in the opioid epidemic. Republicans criticized Democrats for using another hearing for show rather than taking any action on the drug crisis at the southern border. Republicans were clear, if Democrats were serious about addressing the opioid epidemic, they would secure the border where fentanyl and other drugs are coming across in record numbers.

Ranking Member Comer in his opening statement criticized Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) for endangering a bankruptcy settlement, which could provide needed restitution to the families who lost loved ones to opioids.

Former Director of the National Drug Control Policy Center Jim Carroll noted the massive influx of fentanyl in 2021. He said, “During this fiscal year alone, CBP has seized more fentanyl than they did in the entirety of 2020. All we have to do is look at the rising death rates—especially with the vast majority of these deaths being caused by fentanyl today—to show we are not interdicting a larger set of drugs, there are simply more drugs coming in today.”

Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) asked if reopening states could help individuals struggling with overdoses and addiction. Former Director of the National Drug Control Policy Center Jim Carroll said, “There’s no question that the isolation that these people felt, especially in the beginning stages of COVID, contributed to the overdoses [that] contributed to their deaths. . . So many people need that connection when they are in recovery. And, when they’re isolated, when they’re stuck at home, especially in so many of our communities that are rural and they have no access to treatment, that has certainly been one of the driving forces of the recent overdoses.”

Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) inquired whether President Biden’s failures at the border are exacerbating the opioid epidemic. Jim Carroll said, “We know we have to control the southern border. I encourage everyone—everyone should visit the southwest border and see what’s really happening, so we can get a handle on the drugs that are being brought in by the same cartels that are smuggling people—they’re looking to make money at any way possible.”

Rep. Fred Keller (R-Pa.) pressed on witnesses asking how China is exacerbating the fentanyl trade. Jim Carroll said, “China is playing a huge role. There’s no doubt about that. What we are seeing are Mexican drug cartel members being caught in China learning how to make it. And, conversely, what we are seeing are Chinese nationals in Mexico not only doing the teaching but also facilitating the flow of money—the illegal money flows. They’re making millions, if not billions of dollars, on this every year. The Chinese are absolutely complicit in this.”

Rep. Jake LaTurner (R-Kan.) discussed the Trump Administration’s efforts to address the opioid crisis and prevention. Carroll said the Trump Administration’s efforts served to, “Bring the entire government, including Congress, under a unified approach do all the key things to save lives. The only metric, I believe, that really matters is the number of Americans dying. That’s the only way we can really judge if we are making a success. By bringing together both budget as well as policy, we were able to make a substantial difference.”

Carroll went on to discuss how school closures over the last year have affected prevention programs. He said, “When schools were closed, that’s the primary place where so much preventative education is taking place. Recognize it’s not just teachers and adults educating students. It’s teaching students to be able to work with their peers to be able to stand up against—whether it’s illicit drug use or even sharing a pharmaceutical drug that they were properly prescribed. We know that for every dollar spent on prevention, there’s a financial return on investment of what we would guess is $15. Of course, there is no financial dollar figure you can put on for loss of life.”

Ranking Member Comer concluded the hearing by reiterating the Republican commitment to addressing this opioid epidemic and calling on Democrats to address President Biden’s border crisis. He said, “The Republicans on this committee, every one of us, has been to the border at least one time. I challenge the Democrats to go to the border to see the problem on the border with the illicit drugs and the human trafficking that is happening every day on the border. I will say this: We will work with any Democrat on this Committee to hold the Sackler family accountable. We agree with that … But let’s go a step further and let’s do something about the crisis on the border. Let’s have a hearing on that and let’s get serious about that and let’s try to hold people accountable for all the drugs that are crossing the border and affecting our population every single day.”

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