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Collins: Veterans Treatment Courts Help Combat Opioid Epidemic

Jul 6, 2016
Press Release

WASHINGTON – Today, the Opioid Conference Committee convened to discuss the conference report on S. 524, the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act. Congressman Collins, who was appointed along with 34 other Members of Congress  to the Conference Committee in May, spoke during today’s meeting on the importance of including veterans treatment courts in the plan to stem the tide of opioid abuse in America, particularly as it affects returning service members. The text of the report as passed by the committee, as well as amendments, can be found here.

Below is the text of Congressman Collins’ remarks:

Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to make a statement today as we work towards addressing the tragic problem of opioid addiction.

Opioid abuse hits communities across the country, rich and poor, rural and urban, and it takes a major toll. In 2012, an estimated 2.1 million people in the United States were suffering from substance abuse disorders related to prescription opioid pain relievers.

According to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, heroin deaths have increased in Georgia by 300 percent. That is an astonishing and tragic statistic. And it is a call to action.

The Conference Report text of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act contains many important provisions, and I am proud of the work that’s been done to get us here.

I want to focus today on one particular section of the bill—Section 502—that is particularly near to my heart. This section provides for a grant process to establish or expand veterans treatment courts.

This is an issue that is critically important to me, and to our veterans.

I have introduced legislation, the Comprehensive Justice and Mental Health Act, to expand access to veterans treatment courts. Much of the language is reflected in this conference report because the opioid epidemic clearly and tragically affects veterans. 

Veterans treatment courts are especially important in today’s world, because according to the VA, almost 1 in 3 veterans seeking treatment for substance abuse disorders also have PTSD. Additionally, one in six veterans from Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom suffers from a substance abuse issue. We need to help them, not cast them aside.

I’m a Chaplain in the Air Force Reserve. I served in Iraq. I saw firsthand the scars that the battlefield can leave, both physical and mental. We need support systems for our veterans.

We need to address their pain, and we need to ensure they have an avenue to get help they need. I believe this conference is taking steps to help make that happen because our veterans deserve better.

This issue and other important initiatives in this bill are critical towards addressing an opioid epidemic that is affecting far too many of our neighborhoods.

Thank you, and I yield back.  

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