Comstock holds roundtable discussion on drug crisis

WINCHESTER — U.S. Rep Barbara Comstock, R-McLean, met with area professionals  on Tuesday to talk about how best to combat the opioid epidemic.

Members of the Northern Shenandoah Valley Substance Abuse Coalition joined Comstock, along with Lawrence “Chip” Muir, acting chief of staff and general council of the Office of National Drug Control Policy.

He praised the coalition for what he described as an innovative, collaborative effort that attacks the issue from all sides.

“They’ve really thought through all the correct messaging,” Muir said of the coalition. “They’ve really thought through how to treat this comprehensively, and it’s showing.”

Muir added that his office is always looking at what prevention, treatment and recovery methods are working locally and how those strategies can be scaled nationally.

Comstock noted that substance abuse is an “illness that needs to be treated.” She was the only Republican member of Congress from Virginia to vote against the GOP’s American Health Care Act in May, and cited the lack of affordable access to health care as her reasoning. That bill proposed a cap on state-run Medicaid that was widely criticized for making treatment for substance abuse inaccessible and unaffordable.

Comstock reiterated that she is still against the Affordable Care Act because it makes it harder for people to get access to necessary care, and that the opioid epidemic is a public health crisis.

“Public health is something that, regardless of where people come out on Obamacare, you still have to have a public health system,” Comstock said, highlighting the need to prevent communicable diseases and have community health centers,

“No matter what kind of health care system we get resolved on that front, you have to have public health resources, and this [crisis] is in that area.”