Mar 10 2016

Fischer Applauds Bill to Address Nation’s Opioid Crisis

Senate Passage of Legislation to Bolster Education and Prevention Efforts Comes as Heroin and Opioid Abuse Rise Significantly in Nebraska

WASHINGTON – Today, the U.S. Senate approved bipartisan legislation to address the opioid and heroin abuse epidemic devastating communities across the country. The bill, known as S. 524, The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), would expand drug abuse education and prevention. It would also provide better resources to help first responders fight this crisis and save lives. U.S. Senator Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) voted in favor of the bill, which passed the Senate today by a vote of 94 to 1. The legislation now heads to the House for consideration. 

Senator Fischer released the following statement:

“Our nation is facing an alarming crisis as heroin and opioid addiction grow across the country. Families are losing sons, daughters, parents, and friends to this devastating epidemic. Nebraska is not immune to this surge, as the rates of arrests and overdoses in our state have increased in recent years. I am proud to join my colleagues once again and pass significant, bipartisan legislation that can help save lives and improve the nation.”

The United States is facing a severe opioid abuse and addiction epidemic. Over-prescription of pain-killers like oxycodone, Percocet, and other opioids have led to a surge in demand for the heroin market as the drug makes its way out of the shadows and into the mainstream. Last week, the Omaha World-Herald reported on how this is impacting Nebraska with a front-page story regarding law enforcement’s is struggling to keep up:

“Police and federal agents say the face of heroin — nationally and in Omaha — has changed. Heroin users in 2016 often are well-off suburbanites who get hooked on prescription painkillers and resort to heroin because it’s cheaper and easier to get than pain pills.

“‘The new heroin user is someone with means, who can hide it for a while and isn’t standing on a street corner,’ said Sgt. Dave Bianchi, a narcotics detective with the Omaha Police Department. ‘You see these people and say, “How in the world are you using heroin?” The heroin user of this millennium is not the heroin user of the last millennium.’”

To halt the spread of this epidemic and provide effective treatment, the U.S. Senate took action this week, passing the bipartisan Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA). Below are some specific highlights from the bill. 

  • Develop an inter-agency task force from government and non-governmental stakeholders to establish best practices for prescribing opioids and treating addiction. 
  • Provide grants to states and localities for education and prevention strategies that target areas experiencing drug crises. 
  • Establish incarceration programs to treat addiction in prisons and develop treatment alternatives to incarceration.  
  • Provide first responders with funding for training and implementation of overdose drugs like naloxone (also known as Narcan).
  • Provide medication-assisted treatment programs in state and local governments with additional grant funding. 
  • Provide grants to help target groups affected by addiction, including women, veterans, families, and prisoners.  
  • Curb the supply of heroin and other unlawful substances from entering the United States.

CARA has the support of medical professionals across Nebraska, and it is backed by Nebraska’s law enforcement community. Below are quotes in praise of the bill by several of these organizations: 

Michael Hansen, president and CEO of Columbus Community Hospital:

“Columbus Community Hospital supports S. 524 as an important step towards addressing the effects of opioid abuse, addiction, and the overdose epidemic across our nation. We believe that a coordinated nationwide strategy, including grant programs to support state and local governments, is required to address this problem.”

Joe Kelly, Lancaster County Attorney:

“S.524 is a very positive, forward-looking piece of legislation.  It reinforces the notion that our national drug strategy has to include treatment, education, medical, and law enforcement components.  With regard to opiates, the focus on best prescribing practices and naloxone training for first responders are great enhancements to the existing approaches.  I appreciate that the bill provides funding and support for veterans’ treatment courts, which builds on the work that we are doing in Lancaster County.”

The National District Attorneys Association, which represents prosecutors throughout Nebraska:

“The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act contains many provisions designed to address the dangerous rise in use of heroin and opioids across our country. First and foremost, S. 524 expands efforts to educate the public about the danger of heroin and other opioids, prevent such abuse, and promote treatment and recovery through grants to state and local governments and other nonprofit organizations. We look forward to seeing this important legislation passed into law.”