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Federal Lawmakers Seek State Input about Fighting Opioid Crisis

December 18, 2017

U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions (HELP) Committee leaders are reaching out to states to find out what they need from the federal government to fight the opioid epidemic. Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), sent a letter to every governor and state insurance commissioner asking for their recommendations.

The Senate committee currently is holding a series of hearings about the opioids crisis, as Congress and the White House look for ways to stop the rising rate of opioid overdose deaths. Nationally, opioid deaths have increased fourfold since 1999. Pennsylvania has one of the highest rates of opioid and heroin deaths in the country.

Congress passed three laws during the last congressional session:

  • A law to identify ways to better help infants born exposed to opioids
  • The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, which includes six pillars necessary for a coordinated response––prevention, treatment, recovery, law enforcement, criminal justice reform, and overdose reversal
  • A law providing $1 billion in funding during two years for states to combat the epidemic 

Senators Alexander and Murray want input from state leaders about how the new laws are helping state and local officials address the opioid crisis. They also are seeking information about whether additional changes to law or regulation are necessary.

During October, President Trump declared the epidemic a national public health emergency. However, a public health emergency declaration does not free up money to confront the problem.

HAP and its members have been involved in several regional and community collaboratives to address the crisis. The association has supported numerous policy initiatives, and is urging lawmakers to commit funding for more treatment facilities and personnel to provide the comprehensive care and rehabilitation that people addicted to opioids need.

Opioid addiction is a chronic condition like obesity or hypertension. Managing chronic disease takes a lifetime of patient commitment and the right care, in the right setting, at the right time. Having sufficient and affordable resources, clinicians, medications, treatment beds, and outpatient therapies is critical.

For additional information about Congressional activity, contact Laura Stevens Kent, HAP’s vice president, federal legislative advocacy. For background about hospital best practices and HAP’s community-based collaborations, contact Dr. Michael Consuelos, HAP’s senior vice president, clinical integration.

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