1:49 PM EST
Rick Boucher, D-VA 9th

Mr. BOUCHER. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

As the gentleman from California pointed out in his recent comments, there was a compelling article on the front page of The Washington Post on Sunday that details the level of drug dependency and drug addiction that takes place among coal miners who have, because of their work, become injured, received medications, and then that has led to drug dependency, oftentimes to drug addiction, and it is a major and a growing problem. And in the Central Appalachians, where much of our Nation's coal is

mined, that problem is one of the largest affecting our communities.

Among the major victims of the epidemic we are experiencing are, in fact, coal miners. But the problems in our communities are not limited just to coal miners. As the article published on Sunday indicated, the toll that this sometimes unseen epidemic is taking is worse now than ever before, and it is growing year by year. In 2006, a record 248 people died from drug overdoses in the region that I have the privilege of representing. In that year, accidental pain pill overdoses killed more people

in one of the coal mining counties in my congressional district that has a population of 44,000 than died from drug overdoses in Virginia's largest county, Fairfax County, that has a population of 1.1 million. So obviously this problem is disproportionately affecting the coal-producing counties not only in Virginia, but it is happening throughout the Central Appalachian region where coal is mined.

The devastation to families and communities in the district that I represent is graphic, and that devastation was so well portrayed in the article that the gentleman from California referenced that was published in The Washington Post on Sunday. And for those who have not read that article, let me commend it because it points out the severity that this problem is imposing on our rural areas. Methadone has now replaced OxyContin as the most abused and the deadliest drug, but the epidemic spans

a wide range of pain medications.

So the amendment that I'm putting forward really is the action that Mr. McKeon called for just a moment ago in his comments. It is an important step in addressing the mental health needs of the miners who suffer from work-related drug dependency. They are not the sole victims of the epidemic, but they are disproportionately affected by it.

The amendment authorizes the expenditure of $10 million in grant awards in regions of the Nation most affected by prescription drug abuse among coal miners in order to provide drug counseling and drug rehabilitation services to them. And that article pointed out the severe lack of those very services that exist in the coal-producing regions of Virginia, and the authorities who are responsible for delivering those kinds of services talked about the inadequacy of resources with which they are currently

having to contend. And we take with this amendment one small step in making sure that those resources are enhanced so they can do their jobs better.

I urge adoption of the amendment as one important step in addressing an urgent need that we have in the coal mining communities of the Eastern United States.

Mr. Chairman, I reserve the balance of my time. [Page: H65]