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Republican congressional incumbent discusses opioid legislation and meets with local veterans

CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Rep. Greg WaldenU.S. Rep. Greg Walden visited Prineville Wednesday and Thursday as part of a trip through Oregon's massive Second Congressional District.

Walden, a Republican, is in a tough re-election campaign against Central Oregon Democrat Jamie McLeod-Skinner, who has visited Crook County and campaigned here at various times during this election season.

In Prineville, Walden sought to provide an update on his efforts to combat opioid addiction and to meet with veterans about ways to improve the care they receive from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Walden stopped by the Central Oregonian office Wednesday afternoon, where he highlighted HR 6, a recently passed piece of legislation known as the Substance Use-Disorder Prevention that Promotes Opioid Recovery and Treatment (SUPPORT) for Patients and Communities Act.

The bill is intended to help in overall efforts to advance treatment and recovery initiatives, improve prevention, protect communities, and bolster efforts to fight deadly illicit synthetic drugs like fentanyl.

The SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act follows the passage of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act and the 21st Century Cures Act last Congress as well as the $4 billion appropriated in 2018 the omnibus earlier this year to help combat the opioid crisis and the $6.7 billion included in the recent Defense-Labor-HHS appropriations package to boost programs that fight, treat and stop substance abuse, and support access to mental health services.

Walden called the actions the most significant congressional effort against a single drug crisis in history.

"More Oregonians will die from an opioid overdose this year than will die in traffic accidents," he said of his and Congress' recent emphasis on opioids. "Beyond that, it is just the destruction to families and communities that's going on for those who are surviving but with an addiction for which they can't get treatment."

The bill is designed to improve and expand access to treatment and recovery services, encourage non-addictive opioid alternatives to treat pain, improve access to federal resources for local communities and more.

Walden likened the rise in the number of opioid addiction in the past few years to a hockey stick pattern on a line graph, where the numbers have spiked considerably.

"That's why we looked at this thing from one end to the other," he said, adding that legislation related to opioid addiction has been almost universally embraced in Congress.

On Thursday morning, Walden attended the Prineville Band of Brothers' weekly meeting, where he provided an update on his work to improve the care Oregon veterans are receiving at the VA and hear from local veterans about the issues they are facing.

Walden also took time to present two Band of Brothers members with American flags flown over the U.S. Capitol. One went to Dave Sumner and the other to Roger De Champlain, both whom he acknowledged for their help in putting up and taking down flags for the Flags of Prineville program.

McLeod-Skinner, who has combined solid funding with an effective grassroots and traditional media campaign, is the strongest challenger Walden has faced in his 20-year congressional career. She contents Walden is too tight with special interest groups, namely the pharmaceutical industry, is too embedded with party politics and is no longer responsive to the needs of the district's constituents.

Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 6.

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