Senate Passes the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act Cosponsored by Senator Collins

Bipartisan legislation recognizes opioid and heroin abuse for the public health crisis it has become

Washington, D.C.—The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), cosponsored by Senator Susan Collins, passed the Senate today (94-1). This bipartisan legislation would provide a comprehensive, evidence-based approach to help Americans combat the heroin and opioid epidemic devastating communities in Maine and across America.  Senator Collins recently spoke on the Senate floor in support of the legislation.

“The heroin and opioid abuse epidemic can be seen in emergency rooms, local jails, on main streets, and in homes across Maine and throughout our country,” said Senator Collins.  “In 2014, there were a record 272 overdose deaths in the state of Maine, the vast majority due to heroin or prescription opioids, and the problem is only getting worse.  This legislation recognizes opioid and heroin abuse for the public health crisis that it has become, and it offers meaningful and effective ways to support communities seeking to expand treatment, prevention, law enforcement, and recovery efforts.”

CARA takes the kind of multifaceted approach needed to address the opioid abuse and heroin epidemic by: improving drug education and prevention efforts, supporting law enforcement, combating overdoses, and expanding access to treatment, all of which would help communities contend with the growing opioid epidemic in our nation.  This legislation has support from medical professionals, those in recovery, law enforcement professionals, and other experts in the field.

Among its provisions, CARA would create two task forces to develop best practices for the prescribing of prescription opioids and to examine policies related to examine criminal justice policies.  The bill would authorize several grant programs to help communities combat substance abuse and overdose deaths and to expand treatment and prevention efforts.  Other grant programs target substance abuse recovery services for young people in schools and colleges, as well as treatment services for pregnant and postpartum women.  The bill would also provide support for expanding drug takeback programs, an initiative Senator Collins has long supported.  These programs provide an important way for individuals to safely and securely dispose of their unused prescription drugs.

Senator Collins has led efforts to address the abuse of heroin and prescription painkillers that are taking a tremendous toll on families and communities in Maine and across the United States.  Last month, Senator Collins chaired an Aging Committee hearing titled, “Opioid Use Among Seniors—Issues and Emerging Trends,” which explored the medical use of opioids for pain relief and the challenges health care providers face in treating pain in an environment where the diversion of prescription painkillers is contributing to the ongoing opioid abuse epidemic.  During the hearing, Senator Collins underscored the concerns raised in a recent bipartisan letter she led to the Department of Health and Human Services, requesting that the agency review a patient survey that seeks to gauge how well a patient’s pain was managed during his or her stay.  The results of this survey help determine the amount of federal funding a hospital receives.  The Senators expressed concern that the survey may inadvertently penalize hospitals if physicians, in the exercise of their best medical judgment, opt to limit opioid pain relievers to certain patients.  Consequently, physicians may prescribe more opioids than the patient needs.

In addition, late last year, the Senate passed—and the President signed into law—the Protecting our Infants Act, bipartisan legislation cosponsored by Senator Collins that will help address the growing crisis of opioid use and abuse among pregnant women and its effect on newborn babies.