Combating America’s Opioid Epidemic
No one in the Senate has been more active in the fight against drug addiction than Senator Portman. He continues to lead the national effort to combat the opioid crisis that is devastating communities. As part of his efforts to help Ohio, Portman has worked to help stop the influx of synthetic drugs like fentanyl, expand access to treatment programs that are so critical to an effective recovery, and secure additional funding for evidenced-based Comprehensive Addiction & Recovery Act (CARA) programs focused on prevention, treatment, recovery, and first responders. In addition, Portman worked to secure $1 billion in new funding for state grants to fight opioid abuse in the 21st Century CURES Act. He’s also fought for more overall opioid funding, and helped secure more than $4 billion in new opioid funding over the last few years between CARA, CURES and other opioid programs.
Stopping the Influx of Synthetic Drugs Like Fentanyl
After more than two years of pushing the legislation, Portman’s bipartisan Synthetics Trafficking & Overdose Prevention (STOP) Act was signed into law in October 2018 to help stop dangerous synthetic drugs like fentanyl and carfentanil from being shipped from China to drug traffickers here in the United States through our own Postal System. Fentanyl – a deadly synthetic drug up to 50 times more powerful than heroin – is now killing more Ohioans per year than heroin, contributing to why drug overdose deaths are the leading cause of accidental death in the state.
- As chair of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, Portman has continued to conduct oversight on the failure of the United States Postal Service (USPS) and the United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to comply with the Synthetics Trafficking and Overdose Prevention (STOP) Act, sending both agencies a letter in April 2019 about its lack of progress. The law required USPS to provide this data on 70 percent of all packages mailed from foreign posts, including 100 percent of all packages mailed from China by December 31, 2018. However, as of January 2020, USPS informed the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations that they only obtained data on 81 percent of packages shipped from China and only 65 percent of data on packages from all foreign posts. USPS must begin refusing overseas mail on January 1, 2021 unless it includes advanced electronic data required under the STOP Act that better helps customs officials identify and track illegal drugs.
- In an April editorial from the Toledo Blade titled “Choke Off Fentanyl Supply,” the editorial board praised Senator Portman’s STOP Act and called on the United States Postal Service and the United States Customs and Border Protection on their failure to fully comply with the law’s initial deadlines.
Securing Federal Resources to Combat the Opioid Crisis & Implement CARA
Senator Portman has worked tirelessly to increase federal funding to combat opioid abuse and make sure that his Comprehensive Addiction & Recovery Act (CARA), which was signed into law in 2016, is fully funded and implemented as quickly as possible. Thanks in large part to Portman’s efforts, key components of CARA to help expand education, treatment and recovery services to help combat addiction have been implemented, fully funded, and more. In fact, in the final FY 2020 funding bill signed into law on December 20, 2019, Portman secured $658 million for CARA grants. Thus far, the state of Ohio has received more than $100 million in CARA funding because of Portman’s efforts.
- In December 2019, a new study published in the journal Health Affairs showed that Portman’s CARA law has led to a 111 percent increase in the availability in rural areas of prescriptions of buprenorphine, a form of medication-assisted treatment for those suffering from opioid addiction. CARA granted physician assistants and nurse practitioners the ability to obtain federal waivers to prescribe buprenorphine. From 2016 to 2019 the number of waivered clinicians per 100,000 population in rural areas increased by 111 percent. Physician assistants and nurse practitioners represented more than half the increase according to the study.
- In March 2019, Portman announced that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has released the second installment of State Opioid Response (SOR) grants that includes a $29 million grant to the Ohio Department of Health to address Ohio’s opioid epidemic. These funds will be used to expand access to addiction treatment that works, especially medication-assisted treatment (MAT) with appropriate social supports.
- In April 2019, Portman announced that the Ohio State University (OSU) and its partner universities, the University of Cincinnati, Ohio University, University of Toledo, Wright State University, and Case Western University, will receive a total of $65.9 million in federal funding over the next four years to help address the addiction crisis, beginning with a first installment of $13 million. Ohio is one of four states to receive federal funding through the National Institutes of Health (NIH) HEALing Communities Study. Portman led the entire Ohio delegation in urging HHS to support Ohio’s application and fund this study.
- In September 2019, Portman applauded the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for awarding a $4.4 million Overdose Data to Action (OD2A) grant to the Cuyahoga County Board of Health. OD2A is a three-year cooperative funding agreement that focuses on the complex and changing nature of the opioid overdose epidemic and highlights the need for an interdisciplinary, comprehensive, and cohesive public health approach. These funds will support the Cuyahoga County Board of Health in obtaining high quality, comprehensive, and timely data on overdose morbidity and mortality to inform prevention and response efforts.
- Portman announced in September 2019 that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had awarded a $5.3 million Overdose Data to Action (OD2A) grant to Hamilton County Public Health. He also announced that the CDC awarded a $3.97 million Overdose Data to Action (OD2A) grant to Franklin County Public Health.
Giving States More Flexibility to Combat Meth and Cocaine
In June 2019, Portman introduced the Combating Meth & Cocaine Act to give states more flexibility to use federal funding to address the resurgence of psychostimulants such as methamphetamine and cocaine. Specifically, the bill expands the use of the State Opioid Response Grant funding to address rising use and overdose deaths attributed to the abuse of methamphetamine and cocaine. This legislation was signed into law on December 20, 2019.
Fighting for Proven Programs that Combat Drug Addiction
Portman has led efforts in the U.S. Senate to support key anti-drug programs that have a proven record of success, like the Office of National Drug Control Policy, Drug Courts, Drug-Free Community prevention grants, and High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) grants.
- The SUPPORT Act signed into law by President Trump in October 2018 reauthorizes these programs, demonstrating that they are worth the federal investment. In 1997, Portman authored the Drug-Free Communities Act, which supports evidence-based, community-oriented drug prevention programs, and he recently announced 25 new Drug-Free Communities Act grant recipients in Ohio. Fourteen counties in Ohio receive funding or support through Ohio HIDTA, which leads efforts to combat drug trafficking and interdiction activity across the state and coordinates activity in counties that have been overwhelmed by opioids and fentanyl.
- In September 2019, Portman announced that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) awarded $1.8 billion in grants to help states fight the drug epidemic, including $55.8 million for the state of Ohio. This includes funding HHS through the State Opioid Response Grant (SOR) program, formerly known as the 21st Century CURES Act, which has been used by states to increase access to naloxone and support access to long-term addiction treatment and recovery services.
Permanently Scheduling Fentanyl-Related Substances
In October 2019, Portman introduced the bipartisan Federal Initiative to Guarantee Health by Targeting (FIGHT) Fentanyl Act to permanently schedule illicitly manufactured and deadly fentanyl-related substances. In February 2018, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) issued a temporary scheduling order to schedule fentanyl-related substances that has allowed federal law enforcement authorities to bring criminal actions against individuals who manufacture, distribute, or handle fentanyl-related substances. This scheduling order is set to expire on February 6, 2020. The FIGHT Fentanyl Act codifies DEA precedent to permanently criminalize fentanyl-related substances.