Senate Passes Opioid Bill
On March 10, 2016, the Senate passed legislation by a vote of 94-1 aimed at combating the growing heroin and prescription drug epidemic. The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), introduced by Sens. Rob Portman (R-OH) and Kelly Ayotte (R-H) as well as Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), would:
- Expand prevention and educational efforts—particularly aimed at teens, parents and other caretakers, and aging populations—to prevent the abuse of opioids and heroin and to promote treatment and recovery.
- Expand the availability of naloxone to law enforcement agencies and other first responders to help in the reversal of overdoses to save lives.
- Expand resources to identify and treat incarcerated individuals suffering from addiction disorders promptly by collaborating with criminal justice stakeholders and by providing evidence-based treatment.
- Expand disposal sites for unwanted prescription medications to keep them out of the hands of our children and adolescents.
- Launch an evidence-based opioid and heroin treatment and interventions program. While we have medications that can help treat addiction, there is a critical need to get the training and resources necessary to expand treatment best practices throughout the country.
- Strengthen prescription drug monitoring programs to help states monitor and track prescription drug diversion and to help at-risk individuals access services.
“For nearly two years, I’ve been pleased to work alongside Senators Portman, Whitehouse, and Klobuchar to build support for CARA, and I’m glad the Senate passed this important bill with overwhelming bipartisan support,” stated Ayotte. “CARA will help increase prevention efforts, ensure law enforcement and first responders have greater access to the tools they need on the front lines, increase support for individuals in recovery, and improve treatment, intervention, and prescribing practices for pain management.”
Despite the fact that Senate Democrats pushed for an additional $600 million in funding for the drug prevention effort (Republicans blocked the amendment), the measure now moves to the House, where many members of Congress are confident it will get similar support.
“Not only does it have a lot of support here in the United States Senate… but it also has support in the House of Representatives,” Portman stated. “This is one of these issues that if we pass it here in the Senate, we have a very good chance of passing it in the House, getting it to the president for his signature so it can begin to make a difference in our communities.”