In this midst of the election scramble, a few substantive steps forward in Washington have gotten lost. Among them is a bill signed into law by President Donald Trump recently aimed at addressing the devastating opioid epidemic.
Thanks to the president and a bipartisan coalition in Congress (how often do we get to say that these days?), there is now more money for research and treatment and a new crackdown on smuggling.
The bill is big and it's helpful, even if the central criticism mounted by public health advocates has been a salient one: That for all its ambition it simply isn't big enough given the enormity of the problem.
But here's something the critics might have missed: The federal government needn't be the sole author of solutions to America's problems. The states, local governments and private groups have roles to play, too.
That's especially true in Texas, where we have one of America's strongest economies, some of its most powerful research institutions, and more generally, resources and expertise often not available in smaller states.
For these reasons, lawmakers should make it a top priority fund smart ideas so Texas can do its part to complement the federal law.
Fortunately, lawmakers are moving in the right direction. For instance, Speaker Joe Straus named a select committee on substance abuse and opioids early this year. It has met since March under the leadership of Rep. Four Price, R-Amarillo, who is also chairman of the House committee on public health.
The committee's report detailing its findings and members' recommendations is expected to be made public later this month, but some broad themes have emerged already.
Price has focused on finding more money to fund existing programs, ensuring those resources are spread fairly across the state, and on insisting that state policy reflects the reality that drug treatment requires a holistic and long-running approach.
We hope other ideas get attention, too. For instance, why not find ways Texas could boost research efforts here to take advantage of federal grants aimed at hastening the development of pain medications that aren't addictive?
Fortunately for Texas, the opioid crisis has not yet arrived with quite the same far-reaching devastation that other states, including many in New England and in the former Rust Belt, have endured.
But that's all the more reason for Texas to take fast action come January and do its part to complement the ambitious efforts in Washington.
— Reprinted with permission from the Dallas Morning News