Warner, Kaine on Senate action on prescription drug, heroin abuse

warner-kaineThe U.S. Senate voted Wednesday to approve the House-Senate conference report on the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA).

The bipartisan legislation, which now heads to the President for his signature, tackles heroin and prescription drug abuse and overdose deaths, a growing epidemic in Virginia and across the country.

“Prescription drug and heroin abuse has already claimed too many lives and continues to devastate families and communities across the Commonwealth.  We need to improve treatment for individuals who are suffering from addiction and strengthen programs that focus on prevention. This bill is an important step forward in that direction,” Sen. Warner said. “But our work here is not finished. A comprehensive response to the opioid epidemic also requires funding to support the initiatives contained in this bill. It is my hope that Congress will not simply walk away from the epidemic that is ravaging so many of our communities, and that we continue to work together in a bipartisan way to allocate additional resources to fight the opioid crisis.”

“I’ve seen firsthand how significant an impact the opioid and heroin abuse epidemic is having on communities and families in Virginia. More Virginians now die from these overdoses than car accidents, and law enforcement currently lacks the tools to save more lives,” Sen. Kaine said. “I’m pleased this bill will encourage co-prescribing of naloxone – a life-saving drug – alongside opioid prescriptions and also implements a measure to protect the elderly from medication abuse. I worked with a bipartisan group of colleagues to draft and introduce these provisions. Lastly, while I am pleased Congress was able to work in a bipartisan way to address this crisis,  I am disappointed that Republicans have not provided emergency funding, which is critically needed for state substance abuse programs, law enforcement, treatment and other priorities authorized in this bill.”

Two provisions sponsored by Kaine were included in the compromise legislation. The first is a bipartisan amendment cosponsored by U.S. Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Pat Toomey (R-PA) and Rob Portman (R-OH), that protects seniors from medication abuse. It was based on legislation Kaine introduced last year called the Stopping Medication Abuse and Protecting Seniors Act

Additionally, the conference report includes language authorizing Medicare Advantage and Medicare Part D prescription plans to utilize a patient review and restriction tool, or ”lock-in” measure. This measure would help identify individuals at risk of addiction, connect them with resources, and restrict them to one pharmacy and one provider when accessing controlled substances.

Earlier today, Senate Democrats sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell calling for a vote on legislation to provide substantial funding to address the opioid and heroin epidemic in the United States.

The Senate bill will allow for the appropriation of more than $300 million annually over five years in federal grants to state and local programs aimed at strengthening treatment for addicts and expanding prevention efforts. In order to curb the number of people who illegally receive multiple prescriptions for painkillers, often from multiple doctors, the bill also improves prescription drug monitoring programs. Additionally, the legislation will help save lives by expanding access to overdose-reversal drugs, like naloxone, for law enforcement and other first-responders.

It also includes measures to improve pain management and reform opioid prescribing practices at the Department of Veterans Affairs that were introduced in the Jason Simcakoski Memorial Opioid Safety Act.

In 2015 alone, heroin and prescription drug overdoses claimed the lives of more than 850 Virginians, a 9 percent increase over 2014. Since 2007, prescription painkillers and heroin have killed more than 4,400 people in Virginia.

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