April turned out to be a very fruitful month for the SOAR initiative, the fight on drug abuse, and several other issues concerning southern and eastern Kentucky.
First, I want to commend Operation UNITE for hosting another National Rx Drug Abuse Summit this year. Last week, some 1,100 people from across the country gathered in Atlanta to advance our efforts to curb the prescription drug abuse epidemic and discuss other trending issues like marijuana and heroin.
It’s the largest cross-discipline conference that addresses drug abuse issues in the nation. Keynote speakers included actress Melanie Griffith; U.S. Representatives Bill Keating (D-MA), Stephen Lynch (D-MA), Tom Price (R-GA), Nick Rahall (D-WV) and former Congresswoman Mary Bono; Governors Steve Beshear (D-KY) and Nathan Deal (R-GA); Michael Botticelli, Acting Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP); Dr. Francis Collins, Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH); Dr. Margaret Hamburg, Commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA); Dr. Thomas Frieden, Director of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC); Dr. Elinore McCance-Katz, Chief Medical Officer of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA); Dr. Nora Volkow, Director of the National Institutes on Drug Abuse (NIDA); State Attorneys General Jack Conway (D-KY), Sam Olens (R-GA), and Greg Zoeller (R-IN). I am eager to see the impacts that result from the powerful discussions that were shared during the Rx Summit.
Prior to the Rx Summit, I had the opportunity to meet with Colombian President Santos and other Colombian officials to discuss joint efforts to battle the spread of illegal narcotics. The U.S. and Colombia have a partnership that allows the two countries to work closely together to fight the drug trade — and the organized crime and terrorist groups that use billions of dollars from the sale of illegal narcotics to fund their organizations. In the photo above, the Colombian National Police and I are examining coca plants used for training.
With continued budget hearings by the U.S. House Appropriations Committee, I have seized the opportunity to question federal leaders about several issues concerning southern and eastern Kentucky. This week, I challenged U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew about this administration’s posture on coal-fired generation and the department’s message to stop exporting coal. These policies are bad for domestic industries in America, and they are bad for areas in the developing world in dire need of a reliable, low-cost energy source.
In other budget hearings, I questioned the Bureau of Prison’s plan to meet the rising prison populations and ensuring the safety of BOP staff. I also asserted my concern for proposed cuts to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Housing programs, like the Section 502 Direct Loan and Section 523 Mutual and Self Help Housing programs. These issues directly impact families in our region and should be supported with a renewed emphasis.
It’s the overwhelming loss of coal mining jobs in southern and eastern Kentucky that holds our feet to the fire on the SOAR initiative: Shaping Our Appalachian Region. Last week, we partnered with the East Kentucky Leadership Foundation to hold the first-ever working group meetings during the organization’s conference at The Center for Rural Development in Somerset. Kentucky’s “Stat Guru” Ron Crouch, also shared some encouraging statistics at the event, showing improvement across the region in several categories over the last 30 years. A website dedicated to the SOAR initiative will soon be launched, so stay tuned for more details on how you can help shape our future.
I’m proud to announce that my online office was recognized as a Bronze Medalist by the Congressional Management Foundation for the 113th Congress. The Gold Mouse Awards were created to recognize the best use of online communications. I invite you to visit my website at http://halrogers.house.gov if you ever need to contact me or need assistance with a federal agency or individual issue.