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July 13, 2016                                                                                                                                             Liz Voyles, liz@brassrc.com, 202-297-9641 

 

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

Urges Legislators to Commit Funding Needed to Address Crisis

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Big Cities Health Coalition (BCHC) thanked the U.S. Senate today for passing the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) (S. 524), while asking legislators to provide necessary funding in response to the national opioids crisis. CARA will now head to the President’s desk for signature.

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.

“Passing this legislation is a big step forward in the tackling the opioid epidemic, a serious national public health problem,” said Chrissie Juliano, MPP, Director of the Big Cities Health Coalition. “But in order to truly combat it, additional resources are needed. We will see real progress when legislators 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 Coalition looks forward to working with Congressional leaders to implement such actions.”

Other policy makers are making a meaningful difference in addressing the epidemic. The coalition also thanks the Obama Administration for easing arbitrary prescribing limits on a medication-assisted treatment called buprenorphine. BCHC would like to see the cap be raised higher to 500 patients per clinician. Both the House and Senate Appropriations Committees have included additional resources in their FY2017 spending bills to address opioid abuse, however the bills are not likely to become law until late in the year to address a crisis that grows every day.

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.
  • Allow nurse practitioners and physicians’ assistants to prescribe buprenorphine, a drug that only doctors can now prescribe.

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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