April 27, 2022

Whitehouse & Cornyn Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Help Local Communities Fight Drug Overdoses

Overdose Review Team Act would fund community-based panels of experts to improve the local response to the overdose crisis

Washington, DC – Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Chairman of the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control, and Senator John Cornyn (R-TX), a Caucus member, introduced today the Overdose Review Team Act to help local communities save lives by improving their response to the overdose epidemic. The legislation would create a grant program at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to support local governments in establishing panels of health officials, social service organizations, law enforcement, and others to review drug overdoses. The panels would then develop best practices and policy recommendations to prevent future overdoses – a model that has been adopted in a dozen states, including Rhode Island.

“We can draw important lessons from every overdose. Incorporating those lessons into our strategy for battling the overdose crisis will save lives, and serve as a tribute to those lost,” said Whitehouse, who in 2016 passed into law the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act—sweeping bipartisan legislation to curb the addiction crisis and save lives. “I’m pleased to introduce this important bipartisan bill, and glad to partner with Senator Cornyn in the fight against the overdose epidemic.”

“We must ensure our communities have the resources they need to combat drug abuse and save lives,” said Sen. Cornyn. “This legislation would help stem the tide of this terrible epidemic by supporting drug overdose review teams finding solutions to this crisis.”

The Overdose Review Team Act would authorize $50 million for HHS to create a dedicated grant program to help state, local, and Tribal governments establish, maintain, or expand drug overdose review teams. These multidisciplinary review teams would include representatives from local health departments, social services agencies, district attorneys’ offices, law enforcement agencies, corrections departments, healthcare providers, mental healthcare specialists, and more.

The teams would bolster cooperation and coordination among agencies involved in investigating drug overdoses; evaluate the causes that led to the overdose; track the total number of overdoses; monitor trends and patterns in overdoses; and develop best practices and policy recommendations to prevent future overdoses.

Law enforcement and addiction and recovery advocates cheered introduction of the bill. Organizations endorsing the legislation include: Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America; National High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Association (HIDTA) Directors Association; Treatment Communities of America; Addiction Policy Forum; National Association of Social Workers; National Association of State Alcohol and Drug Abuse Directors; Major Cities Chiefs Association; International Consortium of Forensic Science Organizations; Association of State Criminal Investigative Agencies; and NAADAC, the Association for Addiction Professionals.

Under the new legislation, existing Rhode Island review teams would be eligible for funding.

Established in 1985, the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control consists of seven members, four of whom belong to the majority party. The Caucus has held hearings on strengthening U.S. antinarcotics efforts around the world, as well as addressing heroin and prescription drug abuse on American soil. In the past decade, the Caucus has drafted reports on the West African drug trade and the connection between U.S. money laundering and organized crime.

Full text of the bill is available here.

Rich Davidson (Whitehouse), 202-228-6291

Drew Brandewie (Cornyn), 202-224-0704

Press Contact

Meaghan McCabe, (202) 224-2921