Our district is suffering from an opioid crisis, and we need a fresh voice in Washington to fix it. Last year, almost 4,300 of our friends, neighbors, and loved ones in Pennsylvania lost their lives to the deadliest drug epidemic in U.S. history, including more than 850 people in our district alone. Read the stories of these overdose victims and you’ll find they all follow a similar pattern: a person suffering from serious chronic pain issues is prescribed opioid painkillers, and usually prescribed enough of them to get addicted. After this prescription runs out, some people will turn to illegal drugs such as heroin and fentanyl, which are far more likely to lead to overdoses.
Self-serving Congressmen in the swamp of Washington, D.C. have made the problem worse. Yesterday, President Trump announced that Pennsylvania Congressman Tom Marino, who had been nominated to serve as the nation’s drug czar, was stepping away from the job. Marino withdrew after it came to light that he had sponsored and rammed through a bill that stopped the DEA from blocking suspicious shipments of opioid painkillers. This bill made it easier for drug manufacturers to continue flooding Pennsylvania with massive amounts of opioids, even though their reckless pill-pushing and over-prescribing had already taken thousands of lives in our communities. The powerful pharmaceutical industry had wanted this change for years, and found a friend in Marino, who received nearly $100,000 from the industry for doing its bidding. The author of Marino’s bill is now a top executive in the drug industry.
This is a textbook example of how our current leadership has failed us. Congressmen like Tom Marino and Glenn Thompson have chosen personal profits over the health and safety of our neighbors. They haven’t just failed to enact meaningful reforms—they’ve fought to undermine the protections that are already in place. Earlier this year, Glenn Thompson voted to slash $800 billion in funding for Medicaid. This money helps pay for addiction treatment and recovery programs for our neighbors here in Pennsylvania who wouldn’t be able to beat opioid addiction without them. Glenn Thompson was willing to leave behind the people in our district who needed those programs to keep themselves or a loved one alive, because it meant that he and other wealthy Americans would get a tax break.
We need members of Congress who will protect our existing treatment programs, invest in our community-based health care providers, and crack down on big drug companies and the corrupt politicians that they control. I’m running for Congress because I’m sick of seeing our friends and neighbors killed by an opioid crisis that we can fix with a little political courage. I refuse to let us be sold out.