Blumenthal Applauds President Obama's New Actions to Combat Opiod Epidemic

(Hartford, CT) – U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) today applauded President Obama’s new steps to combat the country’s heroin and opioid crisis. A cosponsor of the bipartisan Comprehensive Addition and Recovery Act (CARA), which the Senate approved earlier this month, Blumenthal released the following statement:

“These steps are specific, positive measures – but only first steps against a public health hurricane sweeping the nation. My roundtables across Connecticut have shown the need for more naloxone, more public education, more physician training, and more law enforcement resources – all addressed by the President’s initiative but still only a beginning. Matching the opioid epidemic must be a public health initiative of historic magnitude – uniting state and federal authorities along with educators, medical experts, parents, and recovering addicts. In the long run, greatly expanded treatment and health services must be made available – and excessive prescription of opioid pain killers must be stemmed and stopped.”

Among the announced actions were several steps called for by Sen. Blumenthal, including:

Expanding Access to Treatment: The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is issuing a proposed rule to increase the current patient limit for qualified physicians who prescribe buprenorphine to treat opioid use disorders from 100 to 200 patients with the goal of expanding access to this evidence-based treatment while preventing diversion.  The proposed rule aims to increase access to medication-assisted treatment and behavioral health supports for tens of thousands of people with opioid use disorders.  

HHS released $94 million in new funding to 271 Community Health Centers across the country earlier this month to increase substance use disorder treatment services, with a specific focus on expanding medication-assisted treatment of opioid use disorders in underserved communities.  This funding is expected to help health centers treat nearly 124,000 new patients with substance use disorders.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is releasing a new $11 million funding opportunity for up to 11 States to expand their medication-assisted treatment services.  SAMHSA also is distributing 10,000 pocket guides for clinicians that include a checklist for prescribing medication for opioid use disorder treatment and integrating non-pharmacologic therapies into treatment.  SAMHSA also will coordinate trainings to increase the number of doctors qualified to prescribe buprenorphine, which will be held in targeted States in greatest need.  

Preventing Opioid Overdose Deaths:  SAMHSA is releasing a new $11 million funding opportunity to States to purchase and distribute the opioid overdose reversal drug, naloxone, and to train first responders and others on its use along with other overdose prevention strategies.   

New Private Sector Commitments to Address the Epidemic: In connection with today's Federal announcements, more than 60 medical schools are announcing that, beginning in fall 2016, they will require their students to take some form of prescriber education, in line with the newly released Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain, in order to graduate.

Investing in Community Policing to Address Heroin:  The Department of Justice's COPS program is announcing a $7 million funding opportunity called the COPS Anti-Heroin Task Force Program to advance public safety and to investigate the distribution of heroin, unlawful distribution of prescription opioids and unlawful heroin and prescription opioid traffickers.  These grants will provide funds directly to law enforcement agencies in States with high rates of primary treatment admissions for heroin and other opioids.