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Udall, Heinrich Vote for Vital Legislation to Combat Opioid Epidemic

Secured major NM priorities, including Tribal eligibility for funding and expanded telehealth services

WASHINGTON — Today, U.S. Senators Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) joined the Senate in voting 99-1 to pass bipartisan legislation aimed at combating the opioid epidemic that continues to have a devastating effect on communities across New Mexico and the United States. The Opioid Crisis Response Act of 2018 includes a number of critical provisions to help New Mexico battle the opioid crisis, including important changes to Medicare and Medicaid that will help more people receive treatment, grant programs to aid prevention efforts, and important changes that will help providers treat more patients. Negotiations are underway to reconcile this bill with legislation already passed by the House of Representatives so that both chambers can pass a final bill to send to the president soon.

Udall and Heinrich fought to include important priorities for New Mexico and Indian Country in the package, including a provision to ensure Tribal eligibility for state grants, carving out $50 million in funding specifically for Tribes to curb the opioid crisis in Native communities. They also championed measures to establish comprehensive recovery centers that will be encouraged to use the Project ECHO (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes) model, which was developed in New Mexico. Project ECHO links primary care physicians with specialists to provide coordinated care and improve outcomes for patients, particularly those in rural or remote areas of country who have limited access specialty care services. 

“The opioid epidemic has taken a massive toll on communities all across the United States – and New Mexico has been among the hardest hit by this devastating public health crisis,” said Udall. “This bill is an important step in strengthening our efforts to address opioid abuse and to help put New Mexicans on the path to recovery. I’m particularly pleased that we secured expanded access to telehealth services. Innovative, homegrown health care options like Project ECHO will improve access to treatment in many hard-to-reach areas throughout our state. And as vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, I fought to make sure Tribes have access to the funding needed to adequately address this epidemic, which has hit Native communities so hard. Taken together, these measures will enable communities to work collaboratively to destigmatize addiction, deliver effective treatment and save lives.”

“We know all too well that the opioid and heroin addiction epidemic is a national crisis that has been deeply felt in New Mexico,” said Heinrich. “Organizations and providers on the frontlines in our state need dedicated resources and funding to effectively deliver evidence-based approaches to prevention, medical-assisted treatment, and community-wide recovery strategies. I’m proud to pass this much-needed legislation and will keep doing everything I can to fight for the funding, resources, and policies we need to help New Mexicans find the treatment and lifesaving care they need to get on the road to recovery.”

The combined legislation comprises over 70 proposals and is the culmination of 6 bipartisan hearings and recommendations from five Senate committees: Health, Finance, Judiciary, Commerce and Banking. It encompasses everything from grants to treatment centers and first responder programs to FDA requirements for responsible packaging. The bill also improves access to proven treatment options, including Medication Assisted Treatment, Medicaid access for infants with neonatal abstinence syndrome and telehealth services in rural or remote areas. It also contains measures to create innovative recovery programs, such as a pilot program to secure temporary housing for individuals in recovery.