Democrats in both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate have written letters to House and Senate leaders calling for funding to help fight the opioid epidemic be included in the 21st Century Cures Act, which is under consideration for passage during the lame duck session of Congress.
In both letters, the members of Congress noted that the 21st Century Cures Act is expected to pass before the end of the year.
U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Ed Markey (D-MA) and Joe Donnelly (D-IN) are leading a letter to Senate Majority Leader McConnell and Minority Leader Harry Reid stressing the need to provide immediate funding to address the opioid epidemic before the end of the year.
In July, Congress passed the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) that authorized new programs for states and local organizations to address substance use, misuse and use disorders. The legislation expanded access to medication-assisted treatment, provided new resources to strengthen state Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs, and improve the availability of the overdose reversal drug naloxone. However, according to the Senate Democrats who drafted the letter, “Congress has still not provided sufficient funding to implement this new law. In the face of this national crisis it is critical for us to come together as a governing body to make progress on this in order to help those suffering on the front lines of addiction.”
The Senators also highlighted recent efforts in the Senate to provide needed investments to increase access to prevention, treatment, and recovery services and the need to build on these proposals.
“This epidemic knows no political party. Substance use, misuse and use disorders are national problems that continue to cripple our communities. Our law enforcement, health care system, families and states simply cannot tackle the problem alone and without necessary resources. We urge you to act immediately to ensure that Congress fulfills its commitment to the American people by providing adequate resources to help quell this epidemic in the 21st Century Cures Act,” the Senators wrote.
In a letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Senate Majority Leader McConnell, 23 members of the House, led by Congressman Joe Courtney, Rep. Elizabeth Esty and Rep. Ann McLane Kuster also called for the need for opioid funding in the 21st Century Cures Act. They also noted that when CARA was signed into law in July with overwhelming bipartisan support, the programs it established were not provided with any new funding. “At the time, the chairs of the conference committee which negotiated the final bill agreed appropriations would be necessary to fund these programs in Fiscal Year 2017,” the House members wrote.
“Today, 78 people will likely die of a heroin or opioid overdose,” the 23 U.S. House members wrote. “This epidemic rages on across the United States, and local law enforcement and public health agencies are overwhelmed by need. It is our responsibility to provide them with the resources they desperately require to save lives and repair their communities. We continue to hear from leaders in law enforcement and in addiction recovery who say they are unable to provide assistance to needy residents because they lack the funds.”
“As you complete work on the 21st Century Cures legislation, we write to encourage you to include immediate funding to combat heroin and opioid addiction and overdose in this package. Knowing that Cures will likely be one of the final pieces of legislation that Congress acts on this year, we hope you will consider this a final opportunity to take needed action to combat this crisis,” the House members wrote.
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