WASHINGTON - It was a very emotional hearing on the opioid crisis on Capitol Hill as Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan called on the federal government to do more to work with state and local communities to stop the epidemic of overdose deaths.
Hogan testified overdose deaths from fentanyl are up a staggering 70 percent in Maryland. While the state is working to stop doctors overprescribing opioids, the governor shared how during his own cancer treatment, several of his own doctors issued several prescription for opioids to him.
“I went through 18 months of battling cancer in my first two years as governor, four or five surgeries, and I know at one time three different doctors within a matter of weeks prescribed me 30-day supplies of three different opioids,” Hogan said in front of the Senate’s Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. “That can't happen anymore in our state.”
Gov. Hogan revealed that 2,000 people died of opioid overdoses in Maryland last year, which is more than those killed by guns or car crashes combined.
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown also shared how drug abuse has affected her own family.
"My stepchild started abusing drugs in high school,” she said. “My husband Dan and I watched him change and felt powerless to do anything about it. Eventually a teacher caught him using at school. Instead of kicking him out, she called us.”
While senators have approved $6 billion to fight opioid abuse, Hogan said that is just is a drop in a bucket when Maryland alone is already spending half a billion dollars and counting.
What is also clear is that opioid abuse and opioid deaths have become a common denominator across all 50 states. Things got personal when Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., talked about the death of his own grandson. Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., struggled to get though a letter from the father of an opioid victim.
"I lost my oldest grandchild to an overdose the day before he was to receive his summa cum laude diploma from Georgia Southern University in mathematics and it was a one-time occurrence,” said Isakson.
"I actually have a question from a father whose son who died, and as I read his testimony, it's very moving so excuse me as I feel his pain,” said an emotional Cassidy. “He says if your son is 17 years old, the treatment options are limited.”
Last year, Maryland became the first state in the nation to declare a full-scale state of emergency in response to the heroin, opioid and fentanyl crisis.
Nationally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is still compiling the numbers for 2017, but there were roughly 62,000 overdose deaths in the U.S. last year. That is more than the number of Americans who died in the Vietnam War.