Washington – Today, U.S. Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich joined the Senate in voting 94-5 for a bill that includes critically needed new resources for New Mexico and other states struggling to treat and prevent the growing prescription opioid abuse epidemic. The funding was included in bipartisan health care legislation called the 21st Century Cures Act and now will be sent to the president's desk to be signed into law.
The bill sets aside $1 billion for competitive grants to supplement ongoing efforts by states to combat the opioid crisis, giving preference to state applicants experiencing a high prevalence of addiction. New Mexico, which ranks among the states with the highest rates of opioid-related deaths, would be considered a top candidate. In 2014, New Mexico had the second-highest rate of drug overdose deaths in the nation, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The grants program -- which is expected to be funded for this year in a must-pass budget bill -- finally provides much-needed resources that Udall and Heinrich have strongly supported. Both senators backed President Obama's request for $1.1 billion to combat opioid and heroin addiction and pushed for the funding to be included in the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) when it passed earlier this year. However, Senate Republicans blocked that attempt. Udall and Heinrich also have fought for funding through other legislation and for resources to expand programs that improve screening and treatment of individuals suffering from substance abuse and opioid addiction.
The 21st Century Cures Act also includes money for the National Institutes of Health to fund important cancer research, significant mental health legislation which reauthorizes youth suicide prevention programs and strengthens the law requiring insurance companies to treat mental health care on par with medical benefits, and reforms to the Food and Drug Administration to spur innovation for rare disease treatments.
"The resources for states struggling to address the opioid addiction crisis couldn't be more important to the health of New Mexico's families and communities. Particularly in our rural communities, families are suffering the devastating consequences of the prescription drug abuse and heroin epidemic. These communities have seen families torn apart and lives lost, and they are crying out for our help to overcome the scourge of opioid abuse," Udall said. "We need to support efforts to prevent drug abuse before it starts, make reforms to our mental health treatment programs, and ensure that anyone who wants help can get it — no matter where they live. The funds included in the Cures Act will be designated for states that are most in need, and I am working with Senator Heinrich to help New Mexico get its share of this vital support."
"This bipartisan compromise is a step in the right direction to address the opioid epidemic in New Mexico, fix our broken mental health system, and develop lifesaving cures and treatments for diseases," said Heinrich. "For years, New Mexico’s communities have suffered through inadequate access to mental health treatment, and some of the highest rates of chronic disease and opioid addiction in the nation. We need substantial resources and a comprehensive approach to combat the unique public health challenges we face. While not perfect, 21st Century Cures provides $1 billion to combat the prescription opioid and heroin epidemic, mental health reforms, and $4.8 billion in new funding to the National Institute of Health for medical research and the development of lifesaving cures. These resources are desperately needed in New Mexico and I will work to ensure that these federal funds reach our state."