Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Billby Senator Sherrod Brown
Posted on 2016-03-10
BROWN. Thank you, Madam President. Thank you to my colleagues for
the terrific work they have done on such an important issue, which in
my State sort of began in the most rural of the areas of the State and
spread and spread and spread. This is the right kind of comprehensive
response for this, but as Senator Whitehouse just said, it means real
funding for CARA and what we are doing.
I am pleased we are coming together in a bipartisan way overall, finally taking action on the opioid epidemic that is devastating communities across our country.
We know some of the statistics. More people died in my State than in the country as a whole in 2015 from opioid [[Page S1402]] overdoses rather than they did from auto accidents. We are experiencing a record number of fatal overdoses. There is no State and probably county untouched by the scourge.
We need to remember the human cost of addiction. In Warren, OH, a couple of weeks ago, there was middle-age woman who now has a child now in his midtwenties who has suffered addiction for a dozen years, has been in and out and is doing better, and then falls back. His family is affluent, so his treatment has been better than some. But she says that when there is an addiction, it afflicts the whole family. Nobody is really exempt.
In my State, 2,500 Ohio families in one year lost a loved one to addiction. Thousands more continued to struggle with opioid abuse or with a family member's addiction. It is not an individual problem or a character flaw. It is a chronic disease. Right now, it is placing an unbearable burden on families and communities in our health care system. That is why we need to tackle this at the national level.
It is why I am encouraged to see us debate this Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, or the CARA Act. The ideas in this bill are an important first step in tackling the epidemic, but they are just the first step. On their own they are not nearly enough to put a dent in this epidemic. The initiatives are going to mean very little--and here is the key point that both Senator Casey and Senator Whitehouse made-- without additional funding to back them up.
My colleagues Senator Shaheen of New Hampshire and Senator Whitehouse introduced an amendment that would have provided an additional $600 million to fight the opioid epidemic. That would be a serious commitment in putting the ideas in this bill into place into action.
But my colleagues on the other side of the aisle blocked this investment. Again, they want to do things on the cheap. They want to pass things to pat ourselves on the back but not provide the funding to actually accomplish things. It would block the investment in health professionals and communities who are on the frontlines of this battle.
You simply can't do a roundtable with health professionals and people working toward recovery and families affected by it without hearing from them. They need resources locally. The States aren't coming up with it adequately. They need resources, and they need real investment in prevention programs. We need real investment in treatment options to help patients not just get cured and get clean but stay clean.
Earlier this year, I introduced the Heroin and Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention and Reduction Act with my colleague Senator Baldwin of Wisconsin. Our bill would boost prevention efforts that would improve tools for crisis response. It would expand access to treatment, and it would provide support for lifelong recovery, the kind of serious investment we need to back up our rhetoric.
In public health emergencies, we are sometimes, somehow able to come up with necessary money--swine flu, Ebola, Zika virus. But addiction is not a public health emergency. Addiction is a public health problem, but one we need to fund in an ongoing way. You can look at the spike in the number of deaths. You can conclude nothing else but that it is a long-term public health problem. Too many lives have been destroyed. Too many communities have been devastated. I am just puzzled why my colleagues won't come up with $600 million for this very important public health program. It is time to get serious. It is time to call it what it is--the public health crisis that demands real and immediate investment, not more empty rhetoric, not more empty gestures.
I yield the floor.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Wyoming.