Senator Collins Speaks from Senate Floor in Support of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act

Legislation will help individuals and communities combat the opioid epidemic

Click HERE for a transcript of Senator Collins’ floor statement

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Washington, D.C.—U.S. Senator Susan Collins spoke from the Senate floor today in support of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA).  Senator Collins is a cosponsor of this bipartisan legislation, which provides a comprehensive, evidence-based approach to help Americans combat the opioid epidemic.

“The heroin and opioid crisis in this country is devastating to far too many families, including those in my State of Maine,” said Senator Collins from the Senate floor.  “This epidemic can be seen in emergency rooms, local jails, on main streets, and in homes throughout our country. In 2014, there were a record 208 overdose deaths in the State of Maine, including 57 caused by heroin, and the problem is only getting worse.

“It is clear that we need to take a comprehensive approach to this epidemic, and the bill before us is a vital step forward,” Senator Collins continued.  “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.”

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. CARA takes the kind of multifaceted approach needed to address this 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, and other experts in the field.

From the Senate floor, Senator Collins also stated that an “important part of the solution to this crisis includes examining pain management and prescribing practices. I've heard from Maine families, from physicians, and from law enforcement about a disturbing pattern of a significant percentage of individuals using heroin after abusing legal opioid medications. According to a recent report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, prescription opioid abuse does indeed put individuals at a much higher risk of heroin use. In fact, nearly 80 percent of individuals using heroin reported that they began on the road to addiction by abusing prescription pain medications.”

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.

Last week, 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 epidemic.  During the hearing, Senator Collins underscored the concerns raised in a recent bipartisan letter she led to HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell regarding a possible contributing factor to the opioid crisis facing our country. The letter was signed by 26 Senators and urged Secretary Burwell to conduct a robust examination of hospital performance surveys that may be contributing to the vast supply of prescription opioids currently in circulation in our country by inadvertently penalizing hospitals if physicians, in the exercise of their best medical judgment, opt to limit opioid pain relievers to certain patients.

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.