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Sweeping Opioids Package Heads to President’s Desk for Signature, Includes Key Provisions Authored by Senate Collins


Senator Collins’ provisions will 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 SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act by a vote of 98-1. The bipartisan package passed the Senate and the House and now heads to the President’s desk to be signed into law. 


U.S. Senator Susan Collins, a member of the Senate Health Committee, authored two of the provisions that were included in the final legislation.


“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 supporting 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 SUPPORT for Patients and Communities 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. Two additional measures that Senator Collins championed will greatly increase access to addiction treatment.  The first gives physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and other health professionals more flexibility to prescribe medication-assisted treatment. The second reforms an outdated Medicaid policy that limits funding for residential substance abuse treatment to facilities with just 16 beds or less. This new legislation will allow states to use Medicaid dollars to pay for up to 90 days of treatment for any type of substance abuse disorder at any size residential addiction treatment facility.


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.