As Senate Debates Opioid Bill, Blumenthal, Murphy, Democrats Urge Republicans to Commit to Passing Real, Immediate Funding to Fight Opioid and Heroin Epidemic and Actually Carry Out Programs Authorized in CARA Bill

In New Letter To Leader McConnell, Senate Democrats Call For A Vote To Be Scheduled On Legislation That Provides Substantial Funding To Fight The Opioid And Heroin Epidemic As Soon As Possible Unless Congress Delivers Real Dollars, Legislation Expected to Pass Senate this Week Will Fail to Make Important Strides in the Fight Against Opioid & Heroin Abuse Senate Dems To GOP: Congress Can’t Solve Prescription Opioid & Heroin Crisis Without Real Funding

(Washington, DC)— U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), along with Senate Democrats today released a new letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell calling on Republicans to immediately schedule a vote on legislation to provide substantial funding to address the opioid and heroin epidemic in the United States. The letter comes as the Senate is expected to pass the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), which authorizes, but provides no new funding for, new programs to help stem the prescription opioids and heroin crisis. Senate Democrats argue in the letter that without passage of substantial funding, the CARA bill will fail to make important strides in the fight against the opioid and heroin epidemic.

The letter was signed by Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Patty Murray (D-WA), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Charles Schumer (D-NY), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Jack Reed (D-RI), Tom Carper (D-DE), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Bernard Sanders (I-VT), Bob Casey (D-PA), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Jon Tester (D-MT), Mark Warner (D-VA), Michael F. Bennet (D-CO), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Al Franken (D-MN), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Chris Coons (D-DE), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Angus King (I-ME), Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Ed Markey (D-MA), Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Gary Peters (D-MI).

The full letter from Senate Democrats can be found below:

July 13, 2016 

The Honorable Mitch McConnell
Majority Leader
United States Senate
Washington DC  20510                                                                      

Dear Leader McConnell:

The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) holds great promise for the fight against opioid use disorders. However, that promise -- to realize its potential to help families coping with the devastating toll of this epidemic – can only be realized with real dollars needed to deliver life-saving prevention and treatment services. Until then, the job is not done. We urge you to finish the job by committing real, immediate funding to actually tackle this epidemic head-on.

Fortunately, legislation to accomplish this critical task is ready and available for consideration. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen’s emergency supplemental legislation would commit $600 million in funding to address the crisis right now. Similar language received bipartisan support in the Senate when we debated CARA earlier this year. While the Shaheen legislation followed the Senate’s tradition of not offsetting emergency funding, the conference committee also rejected $920 million for addiction treatment, consistent with the President’s budget request, which was fully offset with bipartisan proposals. With the opioid epidemic crippling communities around the country, every day that counsellors and treatment centers do not have the resources to help those fighting opioid use disorders is a day lost. We hope that you will schedule a vote on legislation that provides substantial funding to address the opioid and heroin epidemic as soon as possible.

It is also imperative that we take on the opioid epidemic without undermining work in other areas critical to public health. Unfortunately, despite the fact that the House Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations bill contains a $457 million increase in funding for heroin and opioid prevention and treatment, it also makes unacceptable cuts to important accounts elsewhere. The same Americans who suffer from opioid use disorders may also need access to birth control; they may also need mammograms to detect early onset breast cancer; and they may also need health insurance through the private insurance marketplaces created by the Affordable Care Act. Unfortunately, House Republican appropriators zeroed out funding for accounts or eliminated provisions dedicated to these purposes.

We owe all Americans a strong response to the opioid crisis that shows we can work together and eschew extreme partisan goals or political games. That means providing real dollars immediately, strengthening other public health priorities, and staying away from poison pill riders. The American people have called on the Senate to do its job and pass emergency funding for opioid use disorder prevention and treatment services. We stand ready to act when you are.