09.18.18

Leahy Champions Fight Against Opioids In Senate-Passed Appropriations Bill

Senate Appropriations Committee Vice Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) led the fight against the opioid epidemic in another Senate-passed appropriations bill Tuesday, securing $3.78 billion in funding to address the opioid crisis and mental health, an increase of $2.7 billion over fiscal year 2017.  The appropriations bill passed the Senate with broad bipartisan support in a vote of 93 to 7 and is on track to be signed into law by the end of the month. 

The bill contains Leahy-authored provision to establish three “Rural Centers of Excellence on Substance Use Disorders” and directs $10 million to a new research program in the Department of Defense to study alternatives to opioids for chronic pain management.  Other Leahy-championed highlights include $250 million for targeted research on opioid addiction, pain management, and addiction treatment, and $29.9 million to help treat pregnant and post-partum women with opioid abuse disorder. 

In 2017, 72,000 people – a 10 percent increase over 2016 – lost their lives to drug overdoses and the opioid epidemic.  Opioid abuse is one of the leading causes of unnatural death in Vermont.  In 2017 there were 101 opioid related deaths, far more than traffic deaths on Vermont roads or gun deaths in Vermont.

Leahy said: “I’m proud of the work being done in Vermont to tackle this crisis, which has reached every community in across the nation.  It is as much a problem in Rural America as it is in our largest population centers.  I am determined that Rural America not be left behind as we continue to take aim at this scourge.  These new resources are desperately needed and long overdue.”

Leahy was a lead negotiator in the bipartisan budget agreement reached in February, which set aside $6 billion in new funding over two years to fund the fight against opioid and mental health crises, making this new funding possible.  The $3 billion included in Thursday’s appropriations package was the second tranche of funding, making a historic investment in the fight against the opioid epidemic. 

Drawing on the groundbreaking work being done at the University of Vermont and the UVM Medical Center to address opioid addiction in rural America, Leahy included in this final appropriations bill funding to establish three “Rural Centers of Excellence on Substance Use Disorders” around the country.  Based at academic universities in states where more than 60 percent of the population lives in rural communities, the centers would focus on researching science-based, community approaches to the opioid crisis and implementing those approaches around the country by providing scientific and technical assistance.  More information available HERE: https://www.leahy.senate.gov/press/leahy-guides-creation-of-national-centers-to-address-rural-addiction-through-the-senate-appropriations-committee

Leahy also included $10 million to establish a new research program in the Department of Defense to study alternatives to opioids for chronic pain management.  Despite a number of programs meant to help the service community understand and address the potentially harmful effects of long-term opioid abuse, the Department of Defense does not have a comprehensive strategy to research and understand alternatives to opioids to manage chronic pain.  Because of this, members of the military rely on these potentially dangerous and highly addictive drugs, which has had severe consequences.  More information available HERE: https://www.leahy.senate.gov/press/0602818dodopioidsrelease

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David Carle: 202-224-3693