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Heinrich Votes To Pass Bill To Combat Opioid And Heroin Abuse Epidemic; Says Congress Must Do More To Address Crisis

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) voted to pass S.524, the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), a bill he cosponsored to provide a series of incentives and resources designed to encourage states and local communities to pursue a full array of proven strategies to combat and treat prescription opioid abuse and heroin addiction. The bill passed the Senate with a 94 to 1 vote and now goes to the U.S. House of Representatives for consideration.

Senator Heinrich cosponsored an amendment to CARA to provide $600 million in emergency funding for law enforcement and public health efforts and treatment and recovery programs. Yet Senate Republicans blocked the inclusion of the amendment in the final bill.

"For years, without adequate treatment resources, our communities have suffered through some of the highest rates of opioid and heroin addiction in the nation. Far too many New Mexico families have lost loved ones and many more are struggling to find treatment and recovery resources," said Sen. Heinrich. "This legislation is only the first step toward curbing addiction. We need to do more in order to help meet the needs of New Mexico's rural and tribal communities, and I will continue the fight to provide emergency funding for drug prevention and treatment programs nationwide. By taking a comprehensive approach to combat this epidemic, we can ensure people have the opportunity to get on the road to recovery."

Last week, Senator Heinrich delivered a speech on the Senate floor to address this crisis and its impact on New Mexico. He shared stories of New Mexicans he met from the Española Valley who have battled through addiction.

In February, Senator Heinrich convened a roundtable in the Española Valley with U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Regional Director Marjorie Petty and various local stakeholders, including the Rio Arriba Community Health Council, to highlight ongoing efforts and discuss ways to better address the heroin and prescription opioid drug crisis in the state.

Between 2011 and 2013, New Mexico had the second highest rate of drug overdose deaths in the nation. And between 2010 and 2014, Rio Arriba County's overdose death rate was more than five times the national average.

S. 524, the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act would:

  • Expand prevention and educational efforts--particularly those aimed at teens, parents and other caretakers, and aging populations--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.  While we have medications that can help treat addiction, there is a critical need to get the 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 treatment services.