07.06.16

As Senate-House Negotiators Meet On Opioid/Heroin Bill, Leahy Urges Support For Rural Communities & For Fully Funding The Bill (CARA Act)

Leahy Urges Lawmakers To Support Rural Communities
& To Fully Fund Legislation Combatting Opioid & Heroin Abuse

. . . Members, Including Leahy, Meet For Senate-House Discussions On Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act

WASHINGTON (WEDNESDAY, July 6, 2016) – During the Senate-House negotiations Wednesday on legislation to combat the nation’s epidemic of opioid abuse, Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) urged lawmakers to pass legislation that provides real support for rural communities fighting this epidemic.

“The ravages of opioid addiction have reached every corner of the country. But this epidemic has struck my home state of Vermont like nothing I have seen before,” Leahy said on Wednesday, during bicameral negotiations on the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act.

“From testimony I received at Senate Judiciary Committee field hearings to conversations around kitchen tables across the state, I have heard how this addiction has destroyed lives, torn apart families, and overwhelmed communities. Vermont and areas across the country are desperate for help. That is why we are here today—to help these communities in need,” he added.

Leahy is a cosponsor of the Senate Comprehensive Addiction Recovery Act, or CARA, which passed the Senate in March and included the same type of community-based approaches to fighting addiction that have resulted in improvements in Vermont. The Conference Committee version of CARA, however, leaves funding for some important priorities at risk. Instead of protecting important treatment and prevention programs, the Conference bill rolls funding for these programs into a single block grant program in a way that threatens funding for each individual initiative. This approach specifically threatens funding for the Anti-Heroin Task Force program that Leahy helped to establish last year, and which has proven effective in communities throughout the country. The Vermont State Police received a $1.4 million grant from this program for its statewide drug task force last September.

Overall, the Conference Committee report does not include nearly enough funding to combat the nation’s drug epidemic and Democratic conferees said Tuesday they would not sign a Conference report that did not include meaningful funding that reflected the seriousness of the opioid epidemic.

On Wednesday, Leahy cosponsored an amendment with Senate HELP Committee Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) to support the addition of funding consistent with the president’s annual budget request in order to ensure that states have the resources they need.

“As CARA was considered on the Senate floor, we heard assurances from Senate Republicans that there would be a time and a place to include real funding. I believe that time is now,” Leahy said.

He added: “We have a solution for how to fully fund CARA. We have identified commonsense offsets that would enable us to dedicate almost $1 billion in new resources to put the programs in CARA to work. The Conference Report before us is not perfect, but only if it is supported with the resources needed to tackle this crisis will I sign it.

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Leahy Files Amendments To Strengthen CARA For Rural Communities

The Conference Committee Report on CARA strips several important provisions included in the Senate-passed measure important to rural communities, which statistics show experience higher death rates due to a lack of resources.

On Wednesday, Senator Leahy filed three amendments to strengthen CARA.

  • To authorize $10 million each year from FY2017-2021 for the Anti-Heroin Task Force program, the amount reported by CJS appropriations this year, as well as to restore the Methamphetamine Task Force at $7 million each year.
  • The CREATES Act, a bipartisan bill recently introduced to reduce excessively high drug prices for pharmaceuticals.
  • To restore the Senate CARA section on treatment alternatives to incarceration, which uses evidence-based strategies and best practices to keep people out of prison and get them the treatment they need.

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