In response to the nation's rapidly growing prescription drug abuse and heroin epidemic, the U.S. House and Senate have passed the bipartisan Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), S. 524 - marking the nation's most comprehensive opioid addiction legislation in nearly 40 years. It now heads to the President's desk for his signature.
"We know the pain of drug abuse far too well in Kentucky, where we continue to lose more lives to drug overdoses than car crashes every year," said Congressman Hal Rogers, co-founder and co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on Prescription Drug Abuse. "In our region, Operation UNITE has successfully implemented a multi-pronged approach to combat this unique challenge incorporating enforcement, treatment and education - and I am proud that this holistic model is being replicated on the national scale with CARA. There is no question that this important legislation will save lives, and I applaud both chambers for prioritizing this issue. I urge the President to sign it into law so we can turn the tide on this devastating epidemic."
CARA authorizes $180 million in new funding to address the opioid crisis this year. Furthermore, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that savings generated from targeted spending in this legislation will reduce the federal deficit by $47 billion over the next ten years.
Last Friday, the U.S. House of Representatives proved its strong support of CARA with an overwhelming vote of 407-5. Today, the U.S. Senate followed suit by sending the legislation on to the President's desk with a vote of 92-2.
Nearly half a million people died from drug overdoses from 2000 to 2014, with 78 Americans dying every day from an opioid overdose, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
In an effort to reduce overdose deaths and prevent addiction across the country, CARA makes a number of changes that will impact Kentucky, including:
Prevention and Education
- A Pain Management Best Practices Inter-Agency Task Force will be established to review, modify and update best practices for pain management and prescribing pain medication.
- The bill authorizes additional funds to support community-wide prevention strategies, such as the Drug-Free Communities Programs, and supports grants for a state-based comprehensive opioid abuse response, including education, treatment and recovery efforts, maintaining prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs), and preventing overdose deaths.
- Additional resources are included for naloxone dispensing, training and education.
- The legislation targets efforts to assist state PDMPs in sharing data across state lines and increase access to PDMPs for prescribers through integration with e-health technology.
- It includes new requirements for FDA to consult with advisory committees prior to approval or labeling of new opioids in pediatric populations. The legislation also advances efforts to inject abuse deterrent formulations (ADF) of prescription painkillers into the marketplace by requiring FDA to issue final guidance for generic drugs that claim abuse deterrence. FDA must also develop recommendations regarding prescriber education to ensure the medical community fully understands the risks associated with prescribing narcotic pain medications.
Enforcement and Criminal Justice Reform
- An additional $103 million is authorized for a comprehensive grant program to fund alternative programs to incarceration, first responder training, investigation, treatment, PDMPs and take-back programs. For the first time, local or regional non-profits, including faith-based organizations, will be able to petition states to help administer these programs.
- The bill expands drug take-back programs by coordinating with state and local law enforcement agencies, manufacturers and distributors of prescription medications, retail pharmacies, narcotic treatment programs, hospitals and long-term care facilities.
- CARA requires the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) to study ways to mitigate consequences for individuals with convictions for non-violent drug-related offenses.
Treatment and Recovery Support
- The legislation makes a significant investment in evidence-based opioid and heroin treatment and intervention demonstrations to help states expand access to addiction treatment services.
- CARA expands access to treatment by allowing nurse practitioners (NPs) and physician assistants (PAs) who meet certain criteria to dispense certain drugs for maintenance and detoxification treatment for a limited number of patients.
- The bill also provides grant funding for residential treatment for pregnant and postpartum women, as well as their children who may suffer from neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS).
In 2003, Congressman Rogers launched Operation UNITE, a non-profit organization that utilities a multi-pronged approach to combat drug abuse in southern and eastern Kentucky through law enforcement, treatment and education. Over the last five years, Operation UNITE has hosted the National Rx Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit, the nation's largest collaboration of stakeholders and federal, state and local leaders in an effort to examine challenges and implement effective solutions to save lives across the country.
Rogers has served Kentucky’s 5th Congressional District since 1981. With a focus on economic development, job creation, fighting illegal drugs and preserving Appalachia’s natural treasures, he has a reputation for listening to his constituents and fighting for the region he represents. For more information, visit Congressman Rogers' online office at http://halrogers.house.gov or follow him on Twitter or Instagram @RepHalRogers, and on Facebook.