WASHINGTON — This week, I’m visiting the Unanimous Congress to learn about public health issues from lawmakers who focus on the intersection of public policy and medicine. They include Vice President Pence, Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin, U.S. Senator Cory Booker, who was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2016; and Vicki Kennedy, the wife of Senator Edward Kennedy, who died in 2009.
The event is being held at the Newseum on Tuesday from 2 to 4 p.m. and everyone is invited to join.
Unanimous Congress is a bipartisan alliance of first- and second-term House members that works together to better the health of Americans, through public policy. They do this by supporting grassroots organizations that tackle major challenges, such as childhood obesity, domestic violence, and drug addiction.
In Washington, D.C., a vote in the House may take hours, but it can take minutes, seconds or even minutes for a member of the public to call or tweet the official #RestoreTrust tour about a specific project. Or a caller can simply press the remote telephone dial option and ask a question about a congressional bill.
And finally, Congressman Mark Pocan of Wisconsin leads the #ActNow for Medicare NOW health care legislation. He has a bill in the process to extend Medicare to older adults and those with disabilities from the age of 55.
Despite these very quick and relatively few interactions, there can be huge, tangible outcomes.
For example, when every day Americans participated in a national petition for the proposed E. coli O157:H7 vaccine, when then-Senator Edward Kennedy asked a question of President Jimmy Carter, when Senator Tom Harkin asked about oral contraception, when the mothers of AIDS patients didn’t have to worry about how to raise their kids while dealing with that illness, and when President Reagan announced a ban on texting in schools, there are innumerable stories that appear on the daily homepage of Unanimous Congress.
In the United States, all five MDs on the Joint Commission — the largest body of independent experts on health care in the United States — now identify opioid addiction as a public health crisis. A growing number of states are making it a crime to sell illegal drugs on school property.
In Michigan, the state that has the highest opioid overdose death rate in the nation, there has been significant bipartisan state legislative action focused on prevention and recovery. And in North Carolina, N.C. Medicaid recently approved new oversight measures to address opioid abuse.
The impact of all of these efforts is being felt across America, and the threats to our future are growing.
For example, we recently worked with Utah Representative Mia Love on a bill she introduced, The Inpatient Narcotic Shortage Initiative, aimed at preventing and controlling the oversupply of narcotics for medical-use by distributing 20-year-old prescription drugs to Utah’s jails and prisons.
We also worked together last year on Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), a bipartisan health reform bill. We agreed that no American should die from drug addiction. Both CARA and Loving’s legislation, which she introduced this year with two bipartisan colleagues, tackle the crisis from both sides of the aisle, addressing both addiction and the lives impacted by the problem.
CARA, as well as the prevention measures on prescription drug abuse, help ensure that people suffering from addiction are able to get the treatment they need in their own communities, rather than ending up in expensive and frighteningly overcrowded jails and prisons. CARA closes the so-called “pill mill” loophole that allows the illegal sale of opioids while providing prevention programs for children and new generations.
Unanimous Congress works every day to inspire and empower both the public and lawmakers to bring change in health care. We believe that we must take action, and we will continue to build an inclusive and visionary movement that will help improve the health of all Americans and our democracy.