(Washington, DC) – As the opioid epidemic sweeps the nation, U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) today applauded the Senate’s passage of the Comprehensive Addition and Recovery Act (CARA). Blumenthal cosponsored the bipartisan legislation to give states and local governments the tools they need to address the ongoing opioid epidemic. The legislation includes a provision written by Sen. Blumenthal to combat drug abuse by expanding access to prescription drug monitoring programs.
“In the face of a spiraling opioid crisis, this bipartisan legislation will give communities the tools they need to tackle the deadly epidemic head on,” Blumenthal said. “This critical bill draws on proven strategies in the fight against addiction to boost prevention and treatment efforts, including my provision to expand access to prescription drug monitoring programs. Rampant opioid addiction is sweeping our county like a hurricane—leaving overdose deaths and heartbroken families in its wake. We must address this crisis with the same sense of urgency we use when responding to a natural disaster, and today’s vote will help communities across Connecticut and the country do just that.”
The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act would:
- Expand prevention and educational efforts—particularly aimed at teens, parents and other caretakers, and aging populations—to prevent the abuse of opioids and heroin and to promote treatment and recovery.
- Expand the availability of naloxone to law enforcement agencies and other first responders to help in the reversal of overdoses to save lives.
- Expand resources to identify and treat incarcerated individuals suffering from addiction disorders promptly by collaborating with criminal justice stakeholders and by providing evidence-based treatment.
- Launch an evidence-based opioid and heroin treatment and interventions program to expand treatment best practices throughout the country.
- Expand disposal sites for unwanted prescription medications to keep them out of the hands of our children and adolescents.
The provision Blumenthal authored would allow physician assistants and nurse practitioners to access state prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs) to reduce drug abuse. PDMPs are online patient databases that allow health care practitioners, pharmacists and law enforcement to track controlled substances prescriptions written for patients, allowing them to determine if a patient is abusing opioids.
Over the past few months, Blumenthal has hosted a series of roundtables on opioid abuse and heroin use – events that brought together substance abuse experts, health providers, mental health professionals, law enforcement, first responders and families and individuals affected by the epidemic. He also sent a letter last month urging the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to require the implementation of risk management strategies for all prescription opioids to reduce the possibility of addiction.
Heroin use and prescription opioid abuse has skyrocketed in Connecticut and nationwide in recent years. In 2012, there were 357 fatal drug overdoses in Connecticut. By 2013, that number had jumped to 495. In 2014, it skyrocketed to 568. By 2015, 723 overdose deaths were reported. This rise in deaths and the increasing addiction rates for heroin are inextricably connected with the availability of illegal drugs, the lack of adequate resources to address addiction and the over-prescription of opioid pain killers.