Portman, Whitehouse Call on House-Senate Negotiators to Strengthen Opioids Bill With CARA 2.0 Provisions

September 20, 2018 | Press Releases

Bipartisan Legislation Should Be ‘Integral Part’ of Final Opioids Package, Senators Emphasize 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), lead sponsors of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2016 (CARA) and the CARA 2.0 Act of 2018, are urging the inclusion of CARA 2.0 priorities in House-Senate negotiations over major opioid legislation recently passed by both chambers.  In a letter to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN), and HELP Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA), the senators call for Senate negotiators to retain provisions from the CARA 2.0 Act and consider incorporating additional proposals from their legislation in the final version.  The Senate could vote on the final opioids bill as early as next week. 

Every day, an average of 115 Americans die from an opioid overdose,” Portman and Whitehouse write.  “We must take this opportunity to advance a comprehensive approach to preventing and treating addiction while also supporting those in long-term recovery.  The policies laid out in the CARA 2.0 Act should be an integral part of that approach.” 

In particular, Portman and Whitehouse point to the need for CARA 2.0’s sensible requirements for using prescription drug monitoring programs, opioid prescribing limits, and a boost in funding to support the critical work of recovery community organizations—groups vital to any long-term response to the opioid crisis. 

Portman and Whitehouse’s first comprehensive bill, CARA, which was signed into law in 2016, ensures that federal resources are devoted to evidence-based education, treatment, and recovery programs that work.  CARA 2.0 builds on this effort by increasing the funding authorization levels to better coincide with the budget agreement reached earlier this year while laying out new policy reforms to strengthen the federal government’s response to the crisis.  

Beginning in 2014, as part of the process of drafting CARA, Portman and Whitehouse hosted five forums across the country with experts and practitioners from the prevention, treatment, law enforcement, and recovery communities to share best practices in their fields.  CARA authorized $181 million for these evidence-based education, treatment and recovery programs, and were funded at $608 million in fiscal year 2018.  

There is bipartisan agreement that more resources will be necessary to help turn the tide of this epidemic.  The budget agreement passed in February includes $6 billion in additional resources for fiscal years 2018 and 2019 to respond to the opioid crisis. 

Read Portman and Whitehouse’s full letter below.  A PDF is available here. 

September 20, 2018 

The Honorable Mitch McConnell                               The Honorable Charles Schumer

Majority Leader                                                          Minority Leader

S-230, The Capitol                                                     S-221, The Capitol

Washington, DC 20510                                              Washington, DC 20510

 

The Honorable Lamar Alexander                               The Honorable Patty Murray

Chairman                                                                    Ranking Member

Senate Committee on Health, Education,                  Senate Committee on Health, Education,

Labor, and Pensions                                                   Labor, and Pensions

428 Dirksen Senate Office Building                           428 Dirksen Senate Office Building

Washington, DC 20510                                              Washington, DC 20510 

 

Dear Leader McConnell, Leader Schumer, Chairman Alexander, and Ranking Member Murray: 

As the lead sponsors of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) and the CARA 2.0 Act (S. 2456), we write in advance of your efforts to reconcile the two chambers' opioids response legislation to urge you to retain the provisions from our bipartisan CARA 2.0 Act and consider incorporating additional proposals from the legislation. 

We are pleased about the inclusion of a funding authorization for infant plans of safe care, the requirement to create recovery housing standards, and the establishment of a youth recovery initiative.  Additionally, we support the increased authorizations for treatment for pregnant and postpartum women and CARA’s First Responder Training program.  We urge you to retain these important provisions in any final opioids response package. 

We also encourage you to consider additional reforms to bolster the federal response to this crisis.  The CARA 2.0 Act includes reasonable limitations on prescribing opioids for acute pain and sensible requirements for using prescription drug monitoring programs.  And while the Senate opioids package includes a modest increase for CARA’s Building Communities of Recovery program, we urge you to consider additional funding and reforms to support the critical work of recovery community organizations.  These groups, which are supporting those walking the long, difficult, noble path of recovery, will be an important part of any long-term response to the opioid crisis.  In particular, a full accounting of the federal funding that has been spent on recovery supports could inform future investments in this work. 

Additionally, we urge you to include a policy that lifts the Institutions for Mental Disease (IMD) exclusion to allow Medicaid to cover all necessary inpatient stays for individuals struggling with addiction in the final bill. 

Every day, an average of 115 Americans die from an opioid overdose.  We must take this opportunity to advance a comprehensive approach to preventing and treating addiction while also supporting those in long-term recovery.  The policies laid out in the CARA 2.0 Act should be an integral part of that approach.  Thank you for your attention to these priorities, and we look forward to continuing to work with you to fight the opioid crisis. 

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