Washington, DC – Today, the Senate moved to begin bicameral negotiations to reconcile House and Senate bills to address the national opioid addiction crisis. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), who authored the Senate-passed bill, welcomed the Senate’s action, and offered a motion to instruct Senate conferees to press for key Senate provisions in their negotiations. The motion was adopted by the Senate 72-24.
“The opioid crisis continues to afflict Americans in every walk of life and in communities across the country. I am glad Congress has drawn a step closer to enacting meaningful solutions,” said Whitehouse. “Addiction is a terrible disease and recovery is a long and difficult path. We need a federal response that directs funds to those efforts that are based on the soundest science and are most likely to succeed. Our Senate bill met that bar and enjoyed overwhelming bipartisan support. The conference bill should do the same.”
The Senate passed the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), sponsored by Whitehouse and Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), in March by a vote of 94-1. In May, the House passed a package of 18 bills addressing various aspects of the crisis by a vote of 400-5.
Whitehouse and Portman’s approach was born of a thorough process that included several bicameral congressional forums, guidance by key scientists in the field, and the input of over 100 national organizations directly involved in tackling the opiate epidemic at the local, state, and national levels. CARA 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.
CARA won support from a broad range of stakeholders, including 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.