March 10, 2016

Senate Passes Far-Reaching Bill to Tackle Addiction Crisis

Whitehouse and Portman’s Legislation Would Help States Combat Prescription Opioid Drug and Heroin Abuse

Washington, D.C. – With the rate of death from opioid-related overdose having quadrupled since 2000 and communities around the country fighting to control opioid and heroin abuse, the Senate has passed wide-ranging legislation to combat the ongoing national crisis.  The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, authored by Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Rob Portman (R-OH) and cosponsored by Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) and 40 others, will help states prevent drug abuse, treat addiction, and reduce overdose deaths.  The bill passed by a vote of 94-1.

“In Rhode Island, I’ve seen addiction touch people in all walks of life, reach communities big and small, and claim far too many lives.  This bill treats addiction like the illness it is.  The bill will help states give law enforcement officers, health care providers, family members, and all those on the front lines of this battle a better shot at success,” said Whitehouse.  “Addiction is a tough illness, and recovery is a hard but noble path.  The men and women who walk it deserve our support, encouragement, and admiration.  That’s why I am so proud to have passed this legislation today, and why I hope the Senate passes an emergency funding measure in the near future so this bill can immediately help all those it should.”

“Today’s strong bipartisan vote is a victory for American families who are struggling with the disease of addiction.  We know that the abuse of heroin and prescription drugs is tearing apart families and devastating our communities.  This bill will help more Americans put their lives back together and achieve their God-given potential,” said Portman.  “I’d like to thank Senator Whitehouse and all of my colleagues, as well as all the anti-drug groups, medical experts, law enforcement officials and others who have helped bring about today’s bipartisan success.  We’ve made great progress today but our work is far from over.  I urge the House of Representatives to act quickly so we can deliver this bill to the president for his signature.  The time to act is now. 

“As a former prosecutor, I have seen firsthand the devastating effects drug abuse can have on families in Minnesota and across the country,” Klobuchar said.  “We must spare no effort to reverse this deadly trend.  Today’s vote brings us one step closer to enacting this critical bipartisan legislation and giving communities the tools they need to combat drug abuse, including my provision on prescription drug monitoring.  I hope that the House will act quickly to pass this bill so it can be signed into law.”

“For nearly two years, I’ve been pleased to work alongside Senators Portman, Whitehouse, and Klobuchar to build support for CARA, and I’m pleased the Senate passed this important bill with overwhelming bipartisan support.  CARA will help increase prevention efforts, ensure law enforcement and first responders have greater access to the tools they need on the front lines, increase support for individuals in recovery, and improve treatment, intervention, and prescribing practices for pain management.  CARA is a significant step forward in the federal response to this crisis, and I urge my colleagues in the House to pass this bill right away so we can take action to save lives in New Hampshire and across the country,” said Senator Kelly Ayotte.

Whitehouse and Portman introduced the bill in February 2015.  During the drafting of the bill, Whitehouse, Portman, Klobuchar, and Ayotte held five congressional briefings with stakeholders from public health, law enforcement, criminal justice, and other fields looking at ways to better support prevention efforts, addiction treatment, and recovery. 

The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act would:

  • Expand prevention and educational efforts—particularly aimed at teens, parents and other caretakers—to prevent the abuse of opioids and heroin and to promote treatment and recovery. 
  • Make naloxone more widely available to law enforcement agencies and other first responders to help in the reversal of overdoses to save lives. 
  • Provide resources to promptly identify and more effectively treat incarcerated individuals suffering from addiction disorders.
  • Increase the number of 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 and promote 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.

Emergency room visits linked to misuse or abuse of prescription opioids are up by more than 50 percent since 2004; over 10 million Americans reported using prescription opioids for nonmedical purposes in 2014; and national rates of death from opioid-related overdose are almost four times higher than they were in 2000, according to the New England Journal of Medicine.

The legislation is supported by the National Association of Attorneys General, the Fraternal Order of Police, the National District Attorneys Association, the National Association of State Alcohol and Drug Abuse Directors, 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