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July 8, 2016                                                                                                                                           Liz Voyles, liz@brassrc.com, 202-297-9641 

Big Cities Health Coalition Welcomes Passage of Opioid Legislation by U.S. House of Representatives

Funding Needed to Accompany Bill

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Big Cities Health Coalition (BCHC) thanked the U.S. House of Representatives today for passing the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) (S. 524), while acknowledging that the bill falls short of its potential to save lives, due to a lack of funding included in the legislation. 

The Coalition consists of the 28 largest, most urban public health departments in the country, representing approximately 1 in 6 Americans. These local health departments are on the front lines of the opioid epidemic. They work to save lives every day through partnerships with physicians and law enforcement to prevent opioid-related overdoses, increase provider education, and expand access to treatment.

“The opioid epidemic is one of the most profound public health challenges our nation currently faces,” said Chrissie Juliano, MPP, Director of the Big Cities Health Coalition. “To address it, we must expand access to treatment, strengthen prescription drug monitoring, enable safe disposal of unneeded drugs, and accelerate research on pain and opioid misuse and overdose. The passage of CARA is a solid first step but real resources must accompany this bill in order for it to truly match the ferocity of the problem. We look forward to working with Congressional leaders in the coming days to find a way to ensure robust funding to accompany their response.”

Other policy makers are making a meaningful difference in addressing the epidemic. The coalition applauds the House Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations subcommittee for providing $581 million to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and $90 million to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to address opioid abuse in their FY2017 funding bill. The coalition also thanks the Obama Administration for easing arbitrary prescribing limits on a medication-assisted treatment called buprenorphine. However, BCHC would like to see the cap be raised higher to 500 patients per clinician.

The legislation includes provisions that would accomplish the following:

  • Expand prevention and educational efforts to prevent the abuse of opioids and heroin and to promote treatment and recovery.
  • Expand the availability of naloxone to law enforcement agencies and other first responders to help in the reversal of overdoses to save lives.
  • Expand resources to identify and treat incarcerated individuals suffering from addiction disorders promptly by collaborating with criminal justice stakeholders and by providing evidence-based treatment.
  • Expand disposal sites for unwanted prescription medications to keep them out of the hands of our children and adolescents.
  • Launch an evidence-based opioid and heroin treatment and interventions program to include training and resources necessary to expand treatment best practices throughout the country.
  • Strengthen prescription drug monitoring programs to help states monitor and track prescription drug diversion and to help at-risk individuals access services.

According to the CDC, opioid overdose deaths increased by 14 percent in 2014, the most recent year for which data is available. Since 2000, overdose deaths have claimed the lives of half a million Americans, even though overdose deaths and other consequences of opioid misuse are preventable. 

The Big Cities Health Coalition (BCHC) is a forum for the leaders of America’s largest metropolitan health departments to exchange strategies and jointly address issues to promote and protect the health and safety of their residents. Collectively, BCHC member jurisdictions directly impact more than 54 million people, or one in six Americans. The Big Cities Health Coalition is an independent project of the National Association of City and County Health Officials. For more information, please visit www.bigcitieshealth.org.

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