Congresswoman Noem’s Weekly Column: Addressing Addiction

Addressing Addiction
By Rep. Kristi Noem


The rate of violent crime in South Dakota nearly doubled between 2005 and 2015, according to the FBI. While there are a number of things which can contribute to a surge like that, many agree drugs have played a significant role, impacting everything from gang activity in communities to domestic violence in the home.

The drug epidemic’s realities reach even beyond crime. Nationally, a baby is born addicted to opioids (drugs such as hydrocodone, oxycodone, and morphine) every 25 minutes or so. And in 2015 alone, around 52,000 Americans died of a drug overdose.  President Trump has declared this a national emergency and First Lady Melania Trump has taken up the cause as well.

While South Dakota saw 15 opioid-related deaths in 2007, the number jumped to 37 by 2014, per the South Dakota Department of Health Vital Statistics. Many first responders now carry an antidote for opioid overdoses at all times.

Still, it’s important to note South Dakota hasn’t experienced the opioid epidemic as harshly as many other states. That may be because South Dakota doctors have tended to prescribe fewer than others in surrounding states. But a recent report found prescriptions are increasing here too, reaching the highest number of opioid prescriptions ever recorded in South Dakota in 2016.

New training efforts have launched at places like Avera and Sanford to make sure doctors understand when and how to prescribe opioids, and I’m working on the federal level to make sure we’re doing all we can to keep illegal drugs out of South Dakota. I strongly support legislation, for instance, that cracks down on Mexican drug traffickers and those who help facilitate their illicit activities at the border; this includes a vote to fully fund President Trump’s border security agenda. And I am fighting to make sure local law enforcement officers have the resources and training they need.

Alongside law-and-order, I believe in redemption. Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to visit the Keystone Treatment Center, an addiction recovery facility in Canton. The experience was indescribable. The work done there gives folks another chance at life, at a family, at hope. It’s just incredible the work they do.

In June, I introduced a set of bills to better support the rehabilitation offered by places like Keystone. More specifically, the proposals look to strengthen families during drug addiction treatment and amplify efforts to prevent the child abuse and neglect that can result from drug use.

No community – no family – is immune to addiction. Particularly with opioids, it can often start with a simple prescription for pain medication to deal with a headache. But that same medicine you took to heal can be the drug that leads to a life-altering addiction. Know, however, that help is out there. If you or someone you care about is abusing drugs or medications, please talk to your doctor or contact a treatment center immediately. If you don’t know where to turn, call the free and confidential National Treatment Referral Routing Service at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

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