Senate Passes Sweeping Opioids Package with Two Provisions Authored by Senator Collins

Last year, overdoses claimed the life of more than one Mainer per day

Senator Collins’ provisions would reduce diversion of prescription drugs and support long-term recovery

 Since the beginning of this year, Congress has approved approximately $8.4 billion to combat the opioid crisis


Washington, D.C.—In response to the opioid epidemic that is claiming the lives of tens of thousands of Americans and hundreds of Mainers each year, the Senate today passed the Opioid Crisis Response Act. The bipartisan package, which was approved by a vote of 99-1, includes more than 70 proposals recommended to the full Senate by five committees.  U.S. Senator Susan Collins, a member of the Senate Health Committee, authored two of the provisions that were included in the final bill.


“It is imperative that we work together to combat the opioid crisis, which killed 418 people in Maine last year and led to nearly 1,000 babies being born addicted to opioids and other drugs in our state alone,” said Senator Collins.  “I am pleased that my bipartisan proposals to allow the safe disposal of unwanted drugs in hospice and bolster peer support networks were included in this comprehensive bill.  By providing support for prevention, treatment, and recovery, this all-of-the-above approach will provide vital assistance to individuals and families who are struggling with addiction.”


Senator Collins’ provisions are based on two bipartisan bills she authored to help ensure that unused prescription drugs do not fall into the wrong hands and to bolster peer support networks for long-term recovery.  Specifically, they include:


  • The Safe Disposal of Unused Medication Act cosponsored by Senators Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). 


This provision would allow hospice staff, such as physicians, registered nurses, and nurse practitioners, to dispose of unused prescription drugs after a hospice patient dies or a medication expires.  Currently, hospice staff are not allowed to dispose of unused medications.  As a result, dangerous medications with a high risk of diversion, theft, and abuse are frequently left in the deceased person’s home.  The National Association for Home Care & Hospice (NAHC) sent a letter in support of this legislation.


  • The Opioid Peer Support Networks Act cosponsored by Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH). 


This provision would foster the creation of peer support networks, also known as communities in recovery, and it would provide them with the resources and training they need to succeed.  Peer support networks engage individuals who are in recovery with other peers facing substance use disorders to provide long-term support in employment, education, housing, and overall wellbeing.  Senator Collins witnessed these individuals’ tremendous sense of hope and resiliency when she visited the Bangor Area Recovery Network, or BARN, in Brewer, Maine, last year.  The Maine Alliance for Addiction Recovery in Augusta and the Portland Recovery Community Center also provide peer support networks to serve central and southern parts of Maine.  A growing body of research is showing that peer support networks reduce relapse, enhance wellbeing, and improve long-term recovery.  While relapse is common in addiction treatment, with rates between 40 and 60 percent, peer recovery supports have demonstrated reduced relapse rates and increased treatment retention.  Eighty-eight Recovery Community Organizations across the country, from Portland, Maine, to Seattle, Washington, have submitted a letter of support.


The Opioid Crisis Response Act also takes numerous other steps to reduce the use and supply of opioids, encourage recovery, support caregivers and families, and drive long-term solutions.  One provision Senator Collins cosponsored, the Synthetics Trafficking and Overdose Prevention (STOP) Act, would help stop shipments of synthetic drugs like fentanyl from being shipped through our postal system.


Last year, overdoses claimed the life of more than one Mainer per day, making this one of the top causes of death in the state.  In 2016, there were more than 63,600 drug overdose deaths nationally.


Since the beginning of this year, Congress has approved approximately $8.4 billion to combat the opioid crisis.