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Statement from CPD’s Opioid Network on the passing of Rep. Elijah Cummings

Representative Elijah E. Cummings
(Photo: Justin T. Gellerson for The New York Times)

Early this morning, Congressman Elijah Cummings of Baltimore passed away at the age of 68 from longstanding health problems.

We at CPD’s Opioid Network offer condolences to his family, friends, and constituents.

We are a network of grassroots organizers, of drug users, of those in recovery—working together to end the opioid crisis in America. These are groups that don’t often command much respect or concern from politicians in Washington, but we always had a champion in Congressman Elijah Cummings.

For years, politicians have tried to arrest and criminalize their way out of the opioid crisis. Congressman Cummings saw the futility and cruelty in that, choosing instead to treat drug addiction as a public health issue, not a criminal justice issue. For years, politicians ignored and outright stigmatized drug users as a forgotten community, people who could not be trusted to participate in democracy. Congressman Cummings saw the ignorance in that and helped empower and organize those in the addiction and recovery worlds to advocate for their health and for their very existence.

We worked directly with Rep. Cummings’s staff in drafting the Comprehensive Addiction Resources Emergency (CARE) Act -- the most viable, comprehensive legislative approach to tackling the opioid crisis in this country. His office encouraged our input, incorporated our policy suggestions, and made sure that those directly affected had a voice in protecting themselves.

Furthermore, at a time of failing American leadership, Congressman Cummings used his post as the Chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee to directly confront President Trump and hold his administration accountable for its abuses and corruption.

Congressman Cummings often told a story about his mother’s passing, saying her last words were, “Do not let them take our votes away from us.” It’s fitting then that he spent his life strengthening our democracy, and countless institutions and communities will bear his influence as he leaves us.  

But Congressman Cummings’s work does not have to end with his passing. In fact, it must not. We must honor his memory by continuing where he left off, by combatting the opioid crisis, by passing the CARE Act, by lowering prescription drug prices, and above all else, by protecting our institutions when our democracy is threatened.

Congressman Cummings was the voice for America’s overlooked, for the forgotten. To whatever extent we can, let’s make his voice our own and work to create a country he would be proud of.

Rest in power, Elijah.


Vinay Krishnan, CPD’s Opioid Network

Thursday, October 17, 2019