CONCORD, N.C. (WBTV) - Representative Richard Hudson (R-08) says he was ahead of the curve on the opioid crisis because he lives in his district, comes home on the weekends, does the grocery shopping, and talks to people in the district about what's going on. He says that's why he first started working on the problem two years ago.
"It takes such a comprehensive approach to fix this problem, to deal with this crisis," Hudson told WBTV. "Two years ago we passed mental health reform, we also put a billion dollars in prevention and treatment."
But in that time the epidemic has grown to crisis proportions around North Carolina, and in the areas he serves in Cabarrus and Rowan Counties, and in Fayetteville.
On Tuesday, Hudson visited the Serenity House in Concord. It's a place where men can get treatment to help them break the addiction of drugs and alcohol.
Hudson met with residents, as well as local leaders such as Alice Harrison, Director of Hope Haven and Serenity House, Alan Thompson, Director of Cabarrus EMS, and Major Keith Eury of the Concord Police Department.
Hudson highlighted recent efforts that have been made at the federal level to deal with the issue.
"Just last week we passed another $4.2 billion to go towards opioids, it's across the spectrum," Hudson added. "It's stopping illegal fentanyl at the border, it's making sure individuals aren't doctor shopping getting opioids from 4-5 different doctors, it's looking at education for parents, educators, physicians…do we have enough treatment beds, absolutely not. And then what do you do after treatment? It takes, I just learned today at this roundtable, it takes as much as 3-4 years to rewire your brain before you can overcome that disease of addiction."
Hudson's efforts include treatment, the give back of the massive amounts of unused prescription pills that fill medicine cabinets in so many homes, and the prosecution efforts to stop fentanyl and heroin from crossing the border into the United States.
"It's border security," Hudson said. "It means a wall in some places, it means surveillance in others, we just fully funded the president's request for $1.6 billion to expand another hundred miles of border wall."
When it comes to prescription pills, would an outright ban on opioids ever work? Hudson says he's not ready to consider that as an option.
"I don't think we're at that point yet, but I think through the education of providers about the dangers of over-prescribing, but also, alternatives, and identifying alternatives, I think we can get there without banning opioids outright."
On Monday, Rep. Hudson welcomed the president's proposal to combat the opioid crisis and pledged to continue working with the administration, colleagues and state and local officials to raise awareness and find ways to defeat the opioid epidemic.
Hudson said on Tuesday that the effort on this issue was truly a bi-partisan response.