This is a not only a national health care crisis, it is a national emergency. The time to act, and act decisively, is now. Each day that goes by, more Americans — including Coloradans — fall victim to this epidemic. The most recent proposed budget provided little meaningful funding to begin to address addiction, mental health issues, and other social problems related to the opioid epidemic.

Beyond treating the symptoms of the epidemic, we have failed to address the root causes. That begins with addressing how addiction starts, which is far too often the result of legally prescribed painkillers. The medical profession needs to step forward with a plan to police themselves, and to take swift and decisive action against those who aid in pushing opioids. The pharmaceutical companies also need to accept that they are the manufacturers of many of these drugs, and take responsibility for their safe and legal distribution. If these groups fail to do so, then it is incumbent on Congress and the States to take decisive action on behalf of our citizens.

The failure to act in a meaningful fashion is a failure of Congress to perform its most important role – to protect the lives of Americans.