Rush Statement at Full Committee Markup on Opioid Bills
WASHINGTON — Today, U.S. Representative Bobby L. Rush (D-Ill.), rebuked Republican colleagues for ignoring the issues black and brown Americans face.
Rush Remarks as Prepared for Delivery:
“Mr. Chairman, I have an amendment at the desk. My amendment simply expands treatment options for addicts in the United States. While we are here discussing opioid addiction, we are ignoring issues that continue to face our Nation. Addressing the opioid epidemic is important but that does not mean we can ignore longstanding killers like alcohol and other intoxicants.
“To remedy this, my amendment expands the underlying treatment options to those suffering from substance abuse, which includes among other things Alcohol, Stimulants (such as cocaine), and Opioid Use Disorder.
“In too many communities, including mine, many are the primary causes of drug-related deaths. While I am glad we are addressing the opioid issue, ignoring other addicts and other addictions is not only a grave disservice, it is an injustice. Too often, this Committee and this House have paid attention to issues only when they affect the majority, white, population. This leaves far too many black and brown Americans behind.
“These Americans have already suffered because of the inaction and indifference of their elected representatives. In my eyes, that means that we have failed as a legislative body. Why is it that instead of treatment, minority Americans are subject to incarceration? Why is it that issues of this degree only generate headlines and Congressional action when they come with a white face? Even more insulting, when a crisis impacts the African-American community it’s seen as a criminal justice crisis but when it affects the white community, it’s seen as a public health crisis.
“This bill, as written, adds insult to injury by once again excluding treatment from those who are primarily addicted to crack cocaine even though it serves as a gateway to the opioid addiction that we’re seeing in every community across the country.
“So, Mr. Chairman, I think it is crucial that we not ignore these long-forgotten Americans.
“Before I close, I want to express my extreme displeasure at attempts by staff to tone down my remarks. This issue is one that should spark outrage in all of us. Outrage for the untold numbers of families that have been torn apart, outrage for all those who suffered with too long with too little help, and outrage for those who are languishing in our jails instead of receiving the treatment they so badly need.
“With that, I withdraw my amendment and yield back the balance of my time.”