U.S. Rep. Murphy enlists president’s support in national fight against addiction
Addressing the national epidemic of addiction disorders is a priority for U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy.
So when he had the opportunity to speak with President Trump, Murphy asked for support from the administration.
“He paused for a second,” said the Republican congressman from Upper St. Clair. “We were sitting in the cabinet with about a dozen representatives and the vice president, and he said, ‘My brother died of alcoholism. Yes, we’re going to work on this.’”
After the meeting, Vice President Mike Pence told Murphy with regard to the president: “You know, he never talks about this. The fact that he said that to you shows his level of commitment.”
As guest speaker at the April 13 meeting of the McMurray Rotary Club, Murphy spoke about his efforts toward solving problems associated with addiction, especially those tied to the proliferation of pain-killing opioids.
“There are towns in West Virginia where the death rate is so fast, the funeral home can’t keep up with them,” he reported, “and they have to bring refrigerator trucks in to store the bodies.”
Murphy cited high unemployment in areas where the role of coal mining has diminished – also including Kentucky, Ohio and, of course, Western Pennsylvania – as a contributing factor. People without jobs often seek worker’s compensation or disability, he explained, with the result of them receiving prescriptions for painkillers.
“As the insurance company says, ‘That’s enough,’ or, as people say, ‘The doctor’s not writing anymore,’ they turn toward other things,” most notably heroin and the highly potent synthetic opioid fentanyl, he told the Peters Township Rotarians.
Murphy stressed the importance of providing sufficient treatment programs to deal with the ramifications.
“Out of every 1,000 people with an addiction disorder, 900 do not seek treatment. They just want to keep going,” he said. “Out of the 100 who seek treatment, 37 cannot find it. Nothing is available. Half of the counties in America have no psychiatrist, no psychologist, no type of social worker, and even fewer have someone who is a trained and license addictions treatment professional.
“Of the 63 who can find some treatment, only six are evidence-based care,” he continued. “Evidence-based care means you really have to make sure you’re wrapping services around people in multiple steps. You can’t get that in America.”
Murphy, the only practicing psychologist in elected federal government, co-sponsored the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act, which former President Barack Obama signed into law in December.
“It will make a big difference,” Murphy said, “but we have a lot of way to go to make that happen.”
The congressman spoke about the high percentage of incarcerated Americans who have a mental illness, few of whom receive treatment. He placed much of the blame on the national trend of closing government-run psychiatric institutions for the plight of those with such issues.
“We dumped them on the streets,” he said. “We put them in jails. We’ve left them languishing in emergency rooms for hours or days waiting for a bed. Or we’ve put them in the county morgue. That’s what we’ve done in this country.
“We may be cutting the spending for the state hospitals, but it’s going to go up for prisons and homeless shelters and everything else.”