This week, the Senate passed bipartisan legislation Senator Portman introduced with Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) called the Improving Access to Behavioral Health Information Technology Act. This bill will help behavioral health care providers – like psychologists and psychiatric hospitals – adopt electronic health records. In addition, Senator Portman delivered remarks on the Senate floor in support of Gina Haspel to be the next CIA director as well as on the opioid epidemic and its impact on employers’ ability to find qualified workers.  Lastly, Senators Portman and Bob Casey (D-PA) introduced the Medicare Beneficiary Opioid Addiction Treatment Act (S. 2704). This legislation would break down existing barriers to treatment, by providing coverage for methadone under Medicare Part B and allowing seniors and people with disabilities to receive this important medication in their doctor’s office.

For a more detailed look at Senator Portman’s week, please see the following:

Tuesday, May 8 

Portman-Whitehouse Behavioral Health IT Bill Passes Senate

Portman and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) announced that the Senate has passed their bipartisan Improving Access to Behavioral Health Information Technology Act to help behavioral health care providers – like psychologists and psychiatric hospitals – adopt electronic health records.  The bill, introduced by Portman and Whitehouse last August, is cosponsored by Senators Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI).  The legislation would authorize the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to provide incentives to adopt electronic health technology to behavioral health care providers, improving the coordination and quality of care for Americans with mental health, addiction, and other behavioral health care needs.

“This common-sense bill would improve care for those receiving mental health and substance abuse treatment.  And it would help bring our behavioral health system in line with physician health care by enabling the same incentives for substance use and behavioral health providers that other medical professionals have received,” said Portman.

Wednesday, May 9

Portman Welcomes Release of Remaining U.S. Detainees in North Korea 

Portman welcomed the president’s announcement that the three remaining U.S. detainees in North Korea are returning to the United States with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo:

“I welcome the news that North Korea released the three remaining U.S. citizens it was detaining. This a testament to the Trump administration’s diplomatic approach which has balanced tough sanctions and united international pressure with openness to a dialogue with the North Korean regime. This strategy helped create the space for today’s release. It is a shame that this couldn’t have come to fruition in time for Otto Warmbier’s safe release. While long overdue, today’s news is a positive step ahead of the forthcoming talks between the United States and North Korea.” 

Portman’s Bipartisan Initiatives Included in Senate’s Bipartisan America’s Water Infrastructure Act

Portman announced that the America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018 released by the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works includes several of his bipartisan initiatives to protect the Great Lakes and prioritize upgrades to water infrastructure.

“We must ensure that America’s water infrastructure keeps up with the needs of local communities and helps protect our Great Lakes, and this bipartisan legislation makes important progress on both goals,” said Portman. “This bill provides the resources necessary to upgrade our water infrastructure around the country, as well as increasing the resources available to protect our Great Lakes from invasive species and coastal erosion while conserving and restoring fish and wildlife populations. I’m glad my bipartisan initiatives were included in the legislation that was released by the Committee. I urge my colleagues to support this legislation.”

The America’s Water Infrastructure Act includes the following Portman-led initiatives:

  • The legislation requires the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to complete its Chief’s Report for the Brandon Road Study by February 2019, which will help keep Asian carp from entering the Great Lakes and protect the $7 billion fishing industry in the Great Lakes. Portman has been a leader in urging the Corps to complete its Chief’s Report by early 2019.
  • The legislation authorizes the Corps to conduct a Great Lakes coastal resiliency study. The study, a first of its kind for the Great Lakes, will coordinate a strategy across the Great Lakes states to help protect the Great Lakes’ 5,200-mile coastline. The coastline is imperative to a robust economy and tourism industry because the Great Lakes supports a $17.3 billion maritime economy and a $14 billion recreation and tourism industry. 
  • The measure includes Portman’s legislation with Senator Brown, the Water Infrastructure Flexibility Act. This legislation would provide local communities with flexibility to prioritize investments in wastewater and storm water projects that are necessary to comply with the Clean Water Act. The bill also promotes the use of green infrastructure and requires EPA to update its guidance and expand the criteria for determining the ability for households to pay utility bills.
  • The legislation increases the authorization level for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) from $300 million in FY 2018 to $330 million in FY 2019, $360 million in FY 2020, and $390 million in FY 2021. Portman led efforts to successfully reauthorize the GLRI program for five years as part of the Water Infrastructure Improvement for the Nation (WIIN) Act of 2016. GLRI is a results-driven program to address the most serious threats to the Great Lakes, including invasive species, pollution, and toxic contamination.
  • Finally, the measure increases the authorization level for the Great Lakes Fish and Wildlife Restoration Act, legislation that Senator Portman authored with Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), which was signed into law as part of the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act. The bill increases the authorization from $6 million for FY 2016-FY 2021 to $6.6 million in FY 2019, $7.2 million in FY 2020, and $7.8 million for FY 2021.The bill provides critical resources to conserve and restore fish and wildlife populations in the Great Lakes.

Portman, Casey Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Expand Opioid Treatment Medication for Seniors 

Recently, Senators Portman and Bob Casey (D-PA) introduced the Medicare Beneficiary Opioid Addiction Treatment Act (S. 2704), legislation that would break down existing barriers to treatment, by providing coverage for methadone under Medicare Part B and allowing seniors and people with disabilities to receive this important medication in their doctor’s office.

Opioid use disorder is a growing problem among older adults and people with disabilities, as nearly 12 million people with Medicare were prescribed opioids in 2015. In fact, the President’s FY2019 budget request proposes to test and expand Medicare treatment options, including reimbursing for methadone. Methadone is a physician-prescribed medication that is used as an evidence-based treatment for the most severe opioid use disorders. The bill is supported by the American Medical Association, the Center for Medicare Advocacy, Medicare Rights Center, National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, and the Alliance for Retired Americans.

“Ensuring access to all forms of Medication-Assisted Treatment is a vital to combating this opioid epidemic,” said Portman. “I’m proud to support the Medicare Beneficiary Opioid Addiction Treatment Act, which will fill in gaps in care for our seniors by providing Medicare coverage for methadone.”

Ohio and Pennsylvania have been hard hit by the opioid crisis. In 2015, more than 45,000 Ohioans were receiving treatment for substance use disorders. Meanwhile overdoses remain the number one cause of preventable deaths in Ohio. According to a DEA report, in 2015, 59,584 Pennsylvanians sought treatment for substance abuse disorders. In 2016, the economic cost of the opioid epidemic in Pennsylvania was more than $53.77 billion. 

On the Senate Floor, Portman Addresses the Impact of the Opioid Epidemic on the Economy, Urges Employers to Step Up

Portman delivered remarks on the Senate floor today highlighting the growing economy and the challenges that businesses still face in finding qualified workers to fill in-demand positions. The most important issue facing employers, Portman said, was individuals being sidelined from the workforce due to the opioid epidemic gripping Ohio—and our country—and he urged employers to step up their response. He also discussed bipartisan legislation he is working on to address this crisis, including his bipartisan Synthetics Trafficking & Overdose Prevention (STOP) Act to help stop dangerous synthetic drugs such as fentanyl and carfentanil from being shipped through our borders into the United States and his CARA 2.0 Act, which will build on the success of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) and provide additional resources to help individuals get back on their feet so that they can join the workforce and fulfill their God-given potential.  

A video can be found here.

Thursday, May 10 

On Bloomberg, Portman Discusses Release of U.S. Hostages from North Korea & His Support for CIA Nominee Gina Haspel 

During an interview with Bloomberg Daybreak: Americas this morning, Senator Portman discussed the safe return of three U.S. hostages from North Korea, while also highlighting his support for direct talks with the country with the continued engagement of the international community. He also discussed the Trump administration’s decision to pull out of the Iran Deal and his support for Gina Haspel to be the next CIA director.

Excerpts of his interview can be found here and a video of the interview can be found here.

 

On the Senate Floor, Portman Urges the Senate to Confirm Gina Haspel as CIA Director

Portman delivered remarks on the Senate floor today urging his colleagues on both sides of the aisle to confirm Gina Haspel as the next director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). He highlighted her immense qualifications for the role including her decades of experience working for the CIA. If confirmed, Haspel would be the first woman CIA Director in the agency’s 70-year history.

The transcript of his remarks can be found below and a video can be found here.

On Social Media

Water infrastructure bill includes Portman initiatives

The America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018 released by the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works Tuesday includes several of Senator Rob Portman’s bipartisan initiatives to protect the Great Lakes and prioritize upgrades to water infrastructure.

“We must ensure that America’s water infrastructure keeps up with the needs of local communities and helps protect our Great Lakes, and this bipartisan legislation makes important progress on both goals,” Portman (R-OH) said. “This bill provides the resources necessary to upgrade our water infrastructure around the country, as well as increasing the resources available to protect our Great Lakes from invasive species and coastal erosion while conserving and restoring fish and wildlife populations. I’m glad my bipartisan initiatives were included in the legislation that was released by the Committee. I urge my colleagues to support this legislation.”

The America’s Water Infrastructure Act includes the following Portman-led initiatives:

The legislation requires the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to complete its Chief’s Report for the Brandon Road Study by February 2019, which will help keep Asian carp from entering the Great Lakes and protect the $7 billion fishing industry in the Great Lakes. Portman has been a leader in urging the Corps to complete its Chief’s Report by early 2019.

The legislation authorizes the Corps to conduct a Great Lakes coastal resiliency study. The study, a first of its kind for the Great Lakes, will coordinate a strategy across the Great Lakes states to help protect the Great Lakes’ 5,200-mile coastline. The coastline is imperative to a robust economy and tourism industry because the Great Lakes supports a $17.3 billion maritime economy and a $14 billion recreation and tourism industry.

The measure includes Portman’s legislation with Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH), the Water Infrastructure Flexibility Act. This legislation would provide local communities with flexibility to prioritize investments in wastewater and storm water projects that are necessary to comply with the Clean Water Act. The bill also promotes the use of green infrastructure and requires EPA to update its guidance and expand the criteria for determining the ability for households to pay utility bills.

The legislation increases the authorization level for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) from $300 million in FY 2018 to $330 million in FY 2019, $360 million in FY 2020, and $390 million in FY 2021. Portman led efforts to successfully reauthorize the GLRI program for five years as part of the Water Infrastructure Improvement for the Nation (WIIN) Act of 2016. GLRI is a results-driven program to address the most serious threats to the Great Lakes, including invasive species, pollution, and toxic contamination.

Finally, the measure increases the authorization level for the Great Lakes Fish and Wildlife Restoration Act, legislation that Senator Portman authored with Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), which was signed into law as part of the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act. The bill increases the authorization from $6 million for FY 2016-FY 2021 to $6.6 million in FY 2019, $7.2 million in FY 2020, and $7.8 million for FY 2021.The bill provides critical resources to conserve and restore fish and wildlife populations in the Great Lakes.

Portman has championed numerous pieces of legislation to protect and preserve clean drinking water and the health of Lake Erie. Portman received a Clean Water Award from the National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA) for his efforts, and has worked diligently to make drinking water safe for all Ohioans, protect Lake Erie from dredged materials, harmful algal blooms, harmful plastic microbeads and invasive species, and more.

(Water infrastructure bill includes Portman initiatives. Portsmouth Daily Times. May, 10, 2018.)

'We miss Otto:' Warmbier family happy after North Korea releases 3 Americans

Three American citizens detained in North Korea are on their way home Wednesday.

The move comes almost a year after the release and June 19 death of Otto Warmbier, a Wyoming High School graduate. Warmbier, a 22-year-old University of Virginia student, was detained by North Korea in January 2016 as he was leaving with his college tour group.

The three men —  Kim Hak-Song, also known as Jin Xue Song; Tony Kim, also known as Kim Sang-Duk; and Kim Dong-Chul — were seized between 2015 and 2017, and accused of a variety of anti-state offenses. All traveled to the isolated nation to help its 25 million citizens. All were sentenced to years in the North's brutal camps, according to USA Today.

"I welcome the news that North Korea released the three remaining U.S. citizens it was detaining," Senator Rob Portman, R-Ohio, said in a statement. "It is a shame that this couldn’t have come to fruition in time for Otto Warmbier’s safe release."

('We miss Otto:' Warmbier family happy after North Korea releases 3 Americans. Sarah Brookbank. Cincinnati Enquirer. May, 9, 2018.)

 

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