Rep. Roe participates in drug take back day, questions impeachment inquiry

Jonathan Roberts • Updated Oct 26, 2019 at 3:41 PM

Across the United States, overdose deaths dipped in 2018, but 17 states — including Tennessee — saw increases, which makes events like the National Prescription Drug Take Back Day all the more important.

“(Drug Take Back Day) is important for a lot of reasons, but the biggest one is it’s an opportunity to educate people on the reasons they don’t need to have medications in their home — especially controlled substances,” said Jennifer Bervin, director of Insight Alliance, a substance abuse prevention coalition in Washington County. “There’s a lot of danger in keeping medications in the home for a long time.”

The Drug Enforcement Administration notes that of the estimated 9.9 million Americans who misused controlled prescription drugs in 2018, a majority of them obtained those drugs from family or friends — often from the home medicine cabinet.

“This is an opportunity to encourage people to lock up their medications and raise awareness of those dangers,” Bervin said.

Hoping to set an example and raise awareness for the national event, U.S. Rep. Phil Roe (R-1st) showed up at the Johnson City Police Department’s drop-off location to dispose of his own unused medication.

“I had the same problem everyone else does, I had surgery about two years ago and didn’t take near all the medicine — which was an opioid,” Roe said. “I thought I should set an example and drop them off, which is why I came down here today.”

Roe also thanked members of the JCPD, the Bill Gatton College of Pharmacy at East Tennessee State University and members of the press for participating and spreading the word about the event, one he said he’d like to see more of.

Bervin said that over the decade they’ve been hosting drug take-back events they found, anecdotally, that though only about 10% of the drugs they receive are controlled substances, over half of the people who participate bring in at least one.

Since the DEA began hosting national drug take-back days in 2010, the agency estimates they’ve collected 11.8 million pounds of prescription drugs — and over 468 tons during their April 2019 event alone. In 2018, Tennessee had the 15th highest rate of opioid-related overdose deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

Roe comments on impeachment inquiry

During his stop dropping off his unused prescription medication, Roe commented on the Democrat-led impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump over allegations he withheld congressionally approved military aid to Ukraine for political gain.

“I think (the impeachment inquiry) needs to be done in the open,” Roe said in reference to the closed-door depositions of government officials in the probe. “I think (those depositions) need to be opened and the press invited in so we can see what happens.”

On Friday, a federal judge ruled the impeachment inquiry was legal, and ordered the Justice Department to release secret grand jury information from special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, according to the AP.

Roe said the House of Representatives should hold a formal vote on impeaching the president “like we have for (Presidents) Nixon and Clinton.”

“This is not something we haven’t done before — let the sun shine and let people hear the testimony,” he added, questioning why the depositions are being held “in secret.”

Roe also said he has not been allowed to view any of the deposition materials, and has not been able to view those materials in Congress’ sensitive compartmented information facility on Capitol Hill where the depositions have occurred.

On Wednesday, a group of Republican lawmakers stormed the SCIF to protest the way the inquiry is being conducted. An email from Roe’s team on Friday called the investigation a “sham” and an “outrage.”