July 13, 2016

Whitehouse, Portman, Klobuchar, Ayotte Cheer Final Passage of Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act

Senate clears bill to promote prevention, treatment, and recovery from opioid addiction

Washington, DC – Moments ago, the Senate adopted the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act conference report, giving final approval to legislation that addresses the addiction crisis unfolding throughout the country through new programs to prevent and treat addiction, and support those in recovery.  Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Rob Portman (R-OH), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), who authored the Senate version of the bill that passed in March, applauded the chamber’s 92-2 vote to pass the merged House-Senate bill.

“In Rhode Island and communities across America, the addiction crisis touches people in all walks of life and claims far too many lives.  This legislation sees addiction for what it is—a disease in need of treatment.  It will help first responders, health care providers, family members, law enforcement, and everyone on the front lines of this crisis to care for those afflicted.  And it will support Americans walking the long but noble path of recovery,” said Whitehouse.  “I am proud to have worked with brave men and women in our recovery community and all the stakeholders who shared their knowledge and experience as we crafted this legislation.  Now we must move quickly to ensure we have the funding in place for this bill to fully achieve its objectives.”

“Today’s strong bipartisan vote is a victory for American families who are struggling with the disease of addiction,” said Portman. “This is a historic moment, the first time in decades that Congress has passed comprehensive addiction legislation, and the first time Congress has ever supported long-term addiction recovery.  This is also the first time that we’ve treated addiction like the disease that it is, which will help put an end to the stigma that has surrounded addiction for too long.  Thanks to valuable input from law enforcement, doctors, advocates, patients in recovery, and drug experts in the administration, CARA will help save lives, and help more Americans achieve their God-given potential.  And I want to thank Senators Whitehouse, Ayotte, and Klobuchar for their leadership and partnership on this important issue.”

In Rhode Island in 2015, 258 people lost their lives to overdoses—more than the number of those killed in homicides, suicides, and car accidents combined.  That same year, 439 people in New Hampshire were lost to a drug overdose, while the most recent figures for Ohio and Minnesota stand at 2,744 and 571, respectively. 

“As a former prosecutor, I have witnessed firsthand the devastation caused by opioid abuse in communities across the country.  In Minnesota alone, overdose deaths rose by 11 percent in just one year,” Klobuchar said. “After today’s vote, this important legislation goes to the President’s desk for his signature.  And while there is more work to do on funding these initiatives and strengthening prescription drug monitoring programs, with this legislation, families and communities will have more resources to save lives and begin to reverse this deadly trend.”

“I have been proud to work with Senators Whitehouse, Portman, and Klobuchar on this bipartisan bill, and I’m thankful for their continued leadership,” said Senator Ayotte. “Today marks a critical turning point for the New Hampshire families, advocacy groups, first responders and all other stakeholders who have worked tirelessly to get CARA passed with overwhelming support.  This important legislation will bring a comprehensive approach to the opioid abuse epidemic and authorizes resources for treatment, prevention, recovery and first responders, as well as makes important policy changes that will better assist those who are struggling.  I have also been proud to consistently call for and support the significant funding increases approved by the Appropriations Committee for initiatives that align with the evidenced-based programs outlined in CARA.  I urge the President to immediately sign this bill into law so we can get these critical resources to New Hampshire.”

Beginning in 2014, as part of the process of drafting their bill, Whitehouse, Portman, and Ayotte hosted five national forums with members of both the House and Senate highlighting various aspects of addiction and recovery—including the science of addiction, addiction and the criminal justice process, women and addiction, the collateral consequences of addiction, addiction and youth, and treatment and recovery in the veteran community.  Each forum brought together experts and practitioners from the prevention, treatment, law enforcement, and recovery communities to share best practices in their fields from across the United States. 

In addition to hearing from stakeholders, the Senate co-authors of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act worked closely with a “working group” of organizations to craft legislation that would address the substance abuse crisis in a comprehensive manner.  The working group consisted of over 100 organizations—including the National Council on Behavioral Health, Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America, Major County Sheriffs, Faces and Voices of Recovery, and many others.  The objective was to write a bill designed to incentivize evidence-based best practices and promote collaboration among all too often silo-ed areas of expertise.  The final conference report has gained the support of nearly 250 organizations.

A full summary of the final conference report can be accessed here.

Press Contact

Meaghan McCabe, (202) 224-2921