Senator Collins Introduces Three Bipartisan Bills to Combat the Opioid and Heroin Abuse Epidemic

The multi-pronged approach will promote disposal of unwanted drugs in hospice, foster peer support networks, and provide grants to community organizations responding to opioid addiction

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Washington, D.C. -  In response to the heroin and opioid abuse crisis that is fueling an explosive increase in overdose deaths, U.S. Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) introduced three bipartisan bills to reverse this epidemic that is ravaging communities and devastating families across the country.  Senator Collins spoke from the Senate floor yesterday to urge her colleagues to support her legislation.

The multi-pronged approach will help ensure that unused prescription drugs do not fall into the wrong hands.  It will also bolster treatment resources for those suffering from addiction by fostering peer support networks and providing grants to community organizations responding to opioid addiction.

 

“Last year in Maine, 418 people died from overdoses—a record number and an 11 percent increase over the year before.  Just this past weekend, there were nine overdoses in one night, which included fentanyl-laced heroin,” said Senator Collins from the Senate floor.

 

“It’s clear that we need to take an all-of-the-above approach to tackling this crisis.  This includes support for education and prevention, treatment, and law enforcement.  No single focus will be enough on its own,” Senator Collins continued.  “The bipartisan bills I have introduced provide three ways to respond to this growing problem, and I urge my colleagues to support them.”

 

The astonishing rate of overdoses has increased rapidly in recent years and has shown no signs of abating.  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.

 

Together, the three bills Senator Collins introduced this week will work to alleviate this alarming trend.  They include:

  • The Safe Disposal of Unused Medication Act.  This bill would allow hospice staff and emergency medical services professionals, such as paramedics, to dispose of unused prescription drugs after a hospice patient dies.  Currently, hospice staff are not allowed to dispose of unused medications, opening the door to diversion, theft, and abuse.  The bill was cosponsored by Senators Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).  Click HERE for a one-pager.

 

  • The Opioid Peer Support Networks Act.  This bill 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.  The bill is cosponsored by Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH).  Click HERE for a one-pager.

 

  • The Community Action Opioid Response Act.  This bill would establish a new, competitive grant program to help Community Action Agencies and Community Action Partnerships grow and support their efforts to identify and respond to the causes and consequences of opioid misuse and addiction experienced by low-income individuals, families, and communities.  The bill is cosponsored by Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN).  Click HERE for a one-pager.

 

As a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Senator Collins has successfully advocated for increased funding to address the opioid epidemic.  With her strong support, the fiscal year 2018 funding bill included $4.65 billion for opioid and heroin abuse prevention, and treatment, a $3 billion increase over the previous year.  Additionally, Senator Collins coauthored the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), bipartisan legislation that was signed into law in 2016 to improve drug education and prevention efforts, support law enforcement, and expand access to treatment.