Portman urges full funding for anti-Heroin programs


Joins bipartisan group of Senators fighting for additional funding to address opioid abuse crisis

Staff report



Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) today joined Senators Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and a bipartisan group of Senators in urging appropriators to provide full funding for substance abuse prevention, treatment and recovery programs like the ones authorized by the bipartisan Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) that passed the Senate last week. Portman also sent his own letter urging full funding in February.

“While substance use disorders are treatable diseases of the brain, only about ten percent of those who need treatment are actually able to receive it. In light of this knowledge and the troubling aforementioned statistics, we write to express our strong support for funding in the fiscal year (FY) 2017 Labor, Health and Human Services and Education and Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations bills for programs that would support the comprehensive and integrated strategies to address opioid abuse included in CARA. This bipartisan legislation was developed over the past two and a half years through a cooperative process involving key national stakeholders in the public health, law enforcement, criminal justice, and drug policy fields, and is designed to fight prescription opioid abuse and heroin use holistically – from expanding prevention to supporting recovery,” wrote the Senators.

They continued: “As you begin consideration of the FY 2017 appropriations bills, we urge you to provide full funding for the provisions included in CARA, which would provide the resources and incentives necessary for states and local governments to expand treatment, prevention, and recovery efforts for the millions of Americans who are affected by substance use disorders.”

The letter was also signed by Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Bob Casey (D-PA), Susan Collins (R-ME), Christopher Coons (D-DE), Joe Donnelly (D-IN), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Al Franken (D-MN), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Angus King (I-ME), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Ed Markey (D-MA), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Dan Sullivan (R-AK), Jon Tester (D-MT), Tom Udall (D-NM), Mark Warner (D-VA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Ron Wyden (D-OR).

The full text of the letter is below.

Dear Chairmen Cochran, Blunt, and Shelby, Vice Chairwoman Mikulski, and Ranking Member Murray:

As you are aware, heroin use and prescription opioid abuse are having devastating effects on public health and safety across the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), drug overdoses now surpass automobile accidents as the leading cause of injury-related death for Americans ages 25 to 64. Therefore, we write to request that you appropriate the necessary funding to address the opioid abuse epidemic in a comprehensive manner, along the lines of the initiatives called for under the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, which focus on prevention, treatment, recovery, and support for law enforcement and first responders.

Every day, more than 129 Americans die as a result of drug overdose – and over half of these drug overdoses are related to prescription drugs. Behind these numbers are real people who have been severely affected by the nationwide opioid abuse epidemic and its consequences—loved ones whose lives were lost, individuals who are struggling to achieve and sustain recovery, law enforcement and first responders who are increasingly encountering overdoses, and communities that have been turned upside down by substance abuse. That is why we were pleased to see the United States Senate recently take a positive step towards addressing this crisis in a comprehensive manner. Through the passage of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA, S. 524), the Senate has approved the authorization of at least $80 million to fund prevention, treatment, recovery, and first responder initiatives to combat substance abuse.

While substance use disorders are treatable diseases of the brain, only about ten percent of those who need treatment are actually able to receive it. In light of this knowledge and the troubling aforementioned statistics, we write to express our strong support for funding in the fiscal year (FY) 2017 Labor, Health and Human Services and Education and Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations bills for programs that would support the comprehensive and integrated strategies to address opioid abuse included in CARA. This bipartisan legislation was developed over the past two and a half years through a cooperative process involving key national stakeholders in the public health, law enforcement, criminal justice, and drug policy fields, and is designed to fight prescription opioid abuse and heroin use holistically – from expanding prevention to supporting recovery.

Among other objectives, CARA would:

· Expand prevention and educational efforts, including dissemination of best practices, to prevent prescription opioid abuse and the use of heroin, as well as abuse of the powerful analgesic fentanyl.

· Expand the availability of opioid overdose reversal drugs to law enforcement agencies and other first responders.

· Expand resources to promptly identify and treat individuals suffering from substance use disorders in the criminal justice system.

· Encourage additional drug disposal sites for unwanted prescription medications, thereby keeping them out of the hands of children and adolescents.

· Launch an evidence-based prescription opioid and heroin treatment and intervention program to expand best practices throughout the country.

· Launch a medication assisted treatment and intervention demonstration program.

· Strengthen prescription drug monitoring programs to help states monitor and track prescription drug diversion and to help at-risk individuals access services.

· Reauthorize treatment programs for pregnant and postpartum women, and allow women in non-residential facilities and those who have come into contact with the criminal justice system access to these services.

· Reauthorize important task forces to combat heroin and methamphetamine abuse.

As you begin consideration of the FY 2017 appropriations bills, we urge you to provide full funding for the provisions included in CARA, which would provide the resources and incentives necessary for states and local governments to expand treatment, prevention, and recovery efforts for the millions of Americans who are affected by substance use disorders.

We also ask that you ensure adequate funding for CDC’s prescription drug surveillance and monitoring activities and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) for Prescription Drug and Opioid Addiction program. Additionally, since we know that MAT should be an important component in treating those struggling with opioid use disorders in the criminal justice system, we urge you to continue your support for the Medication-Assisted Treatment Pilot Program at the Bureau of Prisons.

Only through a comprehensive approach that leverages evidence-based initiatives in law enforcement, treatment, support for recovery, and prescribing practices for pain management, can we stem the current skyrocketing numbers of heroin and prescription opioid overdoses and deaths.

Thank you for your attention to this urgent public health and safety issue.

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Joins bipartisan group of Senators fighting for additional funding to address opioid abuse crisis

Staff report

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