February 11, 2016

Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act Clears Judiciary Committee

Whitehouse’s Far-Reaching Legislation to Combat Prescription Opioid Drug and Heroin Abuse Now Headed to the Senate Floor

Washington, DC – The Senate Judiciary Committee passed today the bipartisan Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act—far-reaching legislation to combat the ongoing national crisis of addiction to opioid drugs.  The bill, authored by Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Rob Portman (R-OH) and cosponsored by 29 others, gives states better tools to prevent drug abuse, treat addiction, and reduce overdose deaths.

“Addiction is a disease that afflicts far too many Americans.  In Rhode Island, I’ve heard from people in all walks of life and from every corner of the state about the damage addiction does.  I’ve also witnessed the tremendous strength of those battling addiction and how far they can go if they have treatment and support,” said Whitehouse, a member of the Judiciary Committee.  “This legislation will give the teachers, law enforcement officers, health care providers, family members, and all those on the front lines of this battle the tools they need to fight back.  I’m deeply grateful to everyone in the recovery community who has helped us write this legislation, and I’m pleased to see it advance to the Senate floor.”

Whitehouse has held numerous meetings throughout Rhode Island with law enforcement officers and officials, educators, behavioral health care providers and specialists, community groups, and those in recovery.

“Addiction and drug overdose represent a public health crisis in Rhode Island and nationally – but with the right tools, states can go a long way in addressing it,” said Governor Gina M. Raimondo.  “There are treatments out there that work, and recovery is possible. Senator Whitehouse has shown strong leadership around this issue, and I am grateful to him for introducing this potentially life-saving legislation.  Many of its key strategies fit hand in hand with the ones in our strategic plan to address overdose deaths in Rhode Island, and I look forward to continuing to work together to achieve our goal of reducing opioid overdose deaths by one-third in three years.”

“I commend Senator Whitehouse for his leadership on this issue and his unwavering support to provide states with the resources they need to battle this epidemic.  We know that addiction is a treatable disease, but we also know that only about 10 percent of those who need treatment are receiving it.  And, while heroin and opioid abuse are the primary concern for states right now, we must move beyond simple responses to drug trends and emerging threats, and concentrate on improving addiction treatment and recovery nationwide,” said Attorney General Peter Kilmartin, who spearheaded efforts with the National Association of Attorneys General to support the legislation.  “Law enforcement has always been on the frontline when it comes to drug crises, but we cannot arrest ourselves out of this current epidemic.  Research shows the best way to address this challenge is through a strategy that includes prevention, law enforcement, reduction of overdose deaths, evidence-based treatment, and support for those in, or seeking, recovery.”

“The CARA bill is one of the most important pieces of legislation in recent history to impact on challenges associated with substance use treatment, recovery, prevention and education.  Like so many other states—especially in New England—Rhode Island is suffering from the effects of the disease of addiction, as evidenced by the current epidemic of opioid overdoses and deaths.  The resulting increase in demand and concurrent lack of capacity for treatment and recovery services, as well as the need for comprehensive prescriber and patient education, make the resources provided by this bill a lifeline for individuals, families and communities,” said Linda Hurley, COO for CODAC Behavioral Healthcare in Cranston.  Hurley continued, “Each of this bill’s target areas provides thoughtful and much needed recognition of the devastating consequences of undertreated substance use disorders and the level of support necessary to have meaningful impact.  We are extremely grateful to Senators Whitehouse, Portman and other sponsors for their bi-partisan efforts to move this bill forward.”

Whitehouse and Portman introduced the bill in February 2015.  During the drafting of the bill, Senators Whitehouse, Portman, Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) held five bicameral and bipartisan congressional briefings in Washington with stakeholders from public health, law enforcement, criminal justice, and other fields looking at ways to better support addiction treatment and recovery. 

The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act would:

  • Expand prevention and educational efforts—particularly aimed at teens, parents and other caretakers, and aging populations—to prevent the abuse of opioids and heroin and to promote treatment and recovery. 
  • Expand the availability of naloxone to law enforcement agencies and other first responders to help in the reversal of overdoses to save lives. 
  • Expand resources to identify and treat incarcerated individuals suffering from addiction disorders promptly by collaborating with criminal justice stakeholders and by providing evidence-based treatment.
  • Expand disposal sites for unwanted prescription medications to keep them out of the hands of our children and adolescents.
  • Launch an evidence-based opioid and heroin treatment and interventions program.  While we have medications that can help treat addiction, there is a critical need to get the training and resources necessary to expand treatment best practices throughout the country.
  • Strengthen prescription drug monitoring programs to help states monitor and track prescription drug diversion and to help at-risk individuals access services.

The legislation is also supported by the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG), National District Attorneys Association, the National Association of State Alcohol and Drug Abuse Directors (NASADAD), Faces and Voices of Recovery, the National Council for Behavioral Health, and the Major County Sheriffs’ Association, among others.


Press Contact

Meaghan McCabe, (202) 224-2921