Health Officials Testify Before House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on State Efforts to Address Opioid Epidemic

January 14, 2020

ARLINGTON, VA—Today, two members of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO) testified before the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations of the Committee on Energy and Commerce, including Massachusetts Department of Public Health Commissioner Monica Bharel, MD, MPH, and Rhode Island Department of Health Director and ASTHO Immediate Past President Nicole Alexander-Scott, MD, MPH. The hearing entitled, "A Public Health Emergency: State Efforts to Curb the Opioid Crisis," examined state efforts and successes in addressing the opioid epidemic, as well as opportunities for future federal support.

During their testimonies, Dr. Bharel and Dr. Alexander-Scott shared updates with Congress on progress within their states combating the opioid epidemic and where they need more support.

“Our latest data indicates that the Commonwealth’s public health-centered approach to the opioid epidemic is working and I am heartened to let you know that from 2016 to 2018, our opioid overdose deaths have declined by four percent,” says Dr. Bharel. “We continue to focus on prevention and education, naloxone availability, medication treatment, behavioral health counseling, and sustained recovery services. We have made progress but it is still unacceptable that nearly 2,000 individuals in Massachusetts die from this preventable disease each year, leaving behind families and communities grappling with loss.”

“Our state has worked so hard over the past several years and we are undoubtedly making progress, but that all hinges on a sustained commitment from Congress,” says Dr. Alexander-Scott. “States do the most successful public health work with consistent, predictable, and sustainable federal funding. The scope of this federal funding must be broadened beyond the opioid epidemic so that our public health interventions are responding to issues such as social and emotional isolation, to prevent people from becoming addicted in the first place. This requires us to look beyond what many believe to be our traditional focus areas in public health. We need to work to ensure that all children grow up in homes where they feel safe, supported, and loved; to ensure that people have houses that are healthy, safe, and affordable; and to ensure that people have jobs that offer fair compensation.”

For more information and to read the state health officials’ testimony, visit the committee’s website.


ASTHO is the national nonprofit organization representing the public health agencies of the United States, the U.S. territories and freely associated states, and Washington, D.C., as well as the more than 100,000 public health professionals these agencies employ. ASTHO members, the chief health officials of these jurisdictions, are dedicated to formulating and influencing sound public health policy and to ensuring excellence in public health practice.