We simply can't ignore the trauma young people are exposed to and the massive burden placed on our rural healthcare providers. It's clear that childhood exposure to trauma—such as the opioid abuse by a parent—can often lead to severe health and behavioral complications that can detrimentally impact children throughout their lives. We need a strong plan that gives additional attention to rural and tribal communities. Otherwise, we'll see an entire generation of young people crippled by this crisis.
In April, a U.S. Senate committee passed bipartisan, comprehensive legislation to combat opioid and substance abuse. Several items I fought for were included in the bill, including six provisions to address the ripple effects of the overdose epidemic on children and families. Among them is legislation that would expand resources for first responder training and access to the opioid overdose reversal drug naloxone, as well as require HHS to issue best practices for recovery housing facilities.
While this legislation is a good step in providing additional resources to rural and tribal communities struggling with this national emergency, Congress must continue to build a united front that expands access to treatment, family support services, and evidence-based evaluations of children experiencing trauma—which is why it's so important that my provisions to tackle the consequences of childhood trauma were included in this bill.
While we're addressing the urgent threat posed by opioids and methamphetamines, we can't let other aspects of rural healthcare deteriorate. As co-chair of the Senate Rural Health Caucus and as the spouse of a family physician, I know that doctors, nurses and community providers are key components of delivering high-quality, affordable healthcare in these small towns and townships.
Back in February, my bipartisan bill to strengthen rural healthcare delivery systems passed out of a U.S. Senate committee. Introduced alongside U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.)—my co-chair on the Senate Rural Health Caucus—our bill would allow state offices of rural health to continue receiving the critical support they need through 2022 to bolster the rural health workforce and increase affordability of local clinics and hospitals. It recently passed the Senate by unanimous consent, and it accompanies a recently passed five-year extension of rural Medicare “extenders,” which will continue to strengthen important rural healthcare operations.
We still have lots of work to do. I'll keep fighting to improve and expand healthcare services in North Dakota and across the country—regardless of ZIP code.