Lamar Alexander calls opioid crisis nation’s ‘biggest public health epidemic’

(Photo: WKRN)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – On Thursday, members of Congress spent time tackling the nation’s opioid problem during a hearing with members of the health community.

Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander calls the issue the “biggest public health epidemic.”

“It’s one of the few health problems getting worst instead of better,” he said.

It is estimated over 11 million Americans misused prescription opioids last year. During Thursday’s hearing, health officials testified about federal response to the crisis and looked for a solution.

Lamar Alexander (Photo: WKRN)

“We need to find ways to find non-addictive pain medicine so people won’t have an incentive to take opioids as a pain killer,” Alexander said.

Lawmakers want to lower addiction rates by reducing access to prescription drugs. Health officials say they need more research and funding to fix the problem.

Senator Tim Kaine said he wants a goal of making America opioid addiction-free by 2030.

“Can we set such a goal, organize our resources and meet it? I heard some hopeful testimony from these witnesses if we really directed our energy and resources,” he said.

Sen. Kaine continued, “Health officials say resources are limited. Patients need better access to treatment and care. The committee is having bi-partisan discussions that I think can stabilize the individual insurance market and bring premiums down for folks.”

In an effort to win the battle against opioids, Congress has so far set aside $1 billion to fight the problem.