07.13.16

Senate Wednesday Night Passes Bill Cosponsored By Leahy To Target Opioid And Heroin Abuse

Senate Wednesday Night Passes Bill
Cosponsored By Leahy To Target Opioid And Heroin Abuse

Leahy: Bill Treats Addiction As An Illness
And Reflects Vermont’s — And Rural America’s — Experiences In Coping With The Crisis

. . . Leahy Continues To Push Lawmakers To Put Real Resources Behind These New Efforts

WASHINGTON (WEDNESDAY, July 13, 2016) – The U.S. Senate Wednesday night, in a vote of 92 to 2, passed the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), addressing the nation’s opioid and heroin addiction crisis, which is also being felt across Vermont. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), a cosponsor of and a negotiator on the bill, said CARA signals progress in fighting opioid and heroin abuse, but he said Congress must also provide real funding in order to make a significant difference in communities impacted by opioid abuse across the country. Leahy is the Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which worked on and passed the Senate’s version of the bill.

“For too long, Congress relied on punitive measures that only served to push addicts further underground and away from recovery,” Leahy said. “This legislation treats opioid addiction as an illness, and combats it as we would any other public health issue: through a commitment to evidence based prevention, treatment, and recovery programs.”

Leahy, who was one of seven senators to participate in last week’s Senate-House negotiations on CARA, voted to support the legislation in the Senate on Wednesday. The bill includes a Leahy-authored provision to help rural communities obtain the overdose-reversing drug Naloxone. Rural locations have the highest death rates in the country from opioid poisoning, and Naloxone has the potential to save more lives in these areas. The bill also includes a Leahy-authored provision to direct CARA’s resources to benefit communities that have been particularly hard hit by opioid abuse, such as those throughout Vermont. The bill also authorizes a critical public health program Leahy helped create to expand Medication Assisted Treatment programs.

But Leahy pointed out that the bill lacks the critical funding needed to adequately respond to the epidemic. It does not include any new resources to address the public health crisis of addiction. Republicans have routinely refused to pass a $600 million emergency spending bill to direct vital resources to combat heroin and opioid addiction, and during the conference negotiations, they rejected efforts led by Leahy and others to include funding in CARA. Because of the Republicans’ refusal to add this critical funding, Democratic CARA negotiators, including Leahy, did not sign the conference report last week.

Leahy and other Democratic senators are renewing their efforts to secure appropriations to fully fund CARA.

“I am greatly disappointed that Congress has so far refused to treat this public health crisis as seriously as it did the swine flu or Ebola,” Leahy said. “As Vermonters know too well, lives are at stake here at home and time is of the essence. It is time for Congress to act like it, and fully fund CARA.”

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Leahy’s full Senate Floor remarks on the bill on Wednesday are available at this LINK:

https://www.leahy.senate.gov/press/statement-of-senator-patrick-leahy-on-cloture-vote-of-s524-the-comprehensive-addiction-and-recovery-act

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