Ossoff, Grassley pushing bill to fight opioid epidemic in rural areas

Opioid overdoses spiked in 2020 amid the coronavirus pandemic

Sens. Jon Ossoff and Chuck Grassley on Wednesday are introducing a bill to fight the opioid crisis in rural areas by codifying a pilot program specifically dedicated to fighting the opioid crisis in rural communities. 

The program provides grants to rural local governments and nonprofits to help them fight opioid addiction in their areas. Earlier this year, Reps. Conor Lamb, D-Pa., and Randy Feenstra, R-Iowa, introduced a similar bill in the House. 

"Like so many Georgians, I’ve lost friends to the opioid epidemic. My bipartisan bill with Senator Grassley will fund efforts in rural communities to prevent and treat addiction and to save lives," Ossoff, D-Ga., said. 

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"We’ve made some progress in fighting the opioid crisis, but with overdose deaths rising Congress needs to act. Our bill will help communities in Iowa and across the country to prevent and handle any surge in opioid overdoses," Grassley, R-Iowa, added. 

The opioid crisis was declining at least somewhat in many areas before the coronavirus pandemic. But lockdowns related to the virus appear to have seriously set back the country's effort to fight the addicting class of drugs. Overdoses in 2020 hit a record 93,000, which was a 29% increase over 2019. 

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The bill represents rare bipartisan cooperation in Congress. But the opioid crisis has hit rural areas of many states – from Pennsylvania to Maryland to Iowa to Georgia – very hard. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.