WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Ranking Member of the Joint Economic Committee, hosted a press conference with U.S. Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Joe Manchin (D-W.V.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), and Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) to highlight the devastating impact that the Senate Republican health care bill would have on curbing the opioid epidemic. Communities in New Mexico have suffered through some of the highest rates of opioid and heroin addiction and overdose deaths in the nation. Additional speakers included Michael Botticelli, Executive Director, Grayken Center for Addiction Medicine at Boston Medical Center, and Dr. John Aldis and Shelby, who were recently featured in a New Yorker story about the opioid epidemic.
During his remarks, Senator Heinrich outlined his recent visit to Rio Arriba County where he toured treatment centers and heard directly from people who have recovered from the trials of opioid addiction. In New Mexico, where Medicaid pays for 30 percent of opioid medication-assisted treatment, these treatment facilities will be devastated if the Republican health care bill passes.
Senator Heinrich’s remarks as prepared for delivery are below.
The opioid and heroin addiction epidemic is a national crisis.
We know this because we see it in our states and in our communities.
I’ve personally had several friends lose family members to this epidemic.
In recent years, drug overdoses have become the leading cause of death for Americans under 50.
And last week we learned that 1.3 million Americans needed hospital care for opioid-related issues over the last year alone.
Like many of the senators up here with me, my home state of New Mexico has seen far too many overdose deaths.
Too many New Mexico families have lost loved ones and many more are struggling to find treatment and recovery resources for a father, mother, son, daughter, or for themselves.
It’s clear that our communities need additional resources to provide comprehensive treatment and rehabilitation – not less.
A large part of the funding equation for states trying to confront this public health crisis comes directly from the Medicaid program that the Senate bill will dismantle with deep cuts.
I recently visited the Endorphin Power Company in Albuquerque, a transitional housing facility for people experiencing homelessness as a result of substance abuse.
And I met with first responders who are on the front lines of confronting this epidemic.
Before we passed the ACA, law enforcement were the first to tell us that our health care system was failing people who needed mental health and addiction treatment.
Someone with a behavioral health problem was far more likely to be sent to an emergency room or even a jail cell than to get access to evidence-based care.
Today, because of the mental health parity law and because of Medicaid expansion, affordable, evidence-based treatment is more available to those who need it.
More must be done, but the massive Medicaid cuts and the waivers for “essential benefits” in the Republican bill would reverse many of the gains we’ve made.
And it’s important to say that grant dollars won’t fix the devastating blow Republicans are trying to levy on the Medicaid program.
You wouldn’t treat cancer with a grant.
And we shouldn’t be reliant on grants to treat the epidemic of opioid abuse in our country.
Last year, I also toured treatment centers and hosted a roundtable in Rio Arriba County, New Mexico to hear directly from people who have recovered from the trials of opioid addiction.
In New Mexico, Medicaid pays for 30 percent of opioid medication-assisted treatment.
This is the evidence-based treatment that we know for a fact is helping people lead productive lives.
In states like West Virginia, Ohio, and Kentucky, Medicaid pays for nearly half of these opioid treatment payments.
If Congress passes the devastating funding cuts to Medicaid in the Senate bill, treatment facilities, like the ones I visited in northern New Mexico, will be devastated.
That would spell an end to any progress we have made so far in fighting our nation’s opioid and heroin epidemic.
President Trump knows this crisis is tearing apart American communities.
He promised on the campaign trail to end the opioid epidemic.
Even members of his own White House Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis told his top advisers this month that Medicaid is the leading national payer for addiction and mental health treatment.
Majority Leader McConnell knows that his own home state of Kentucky desperately needs the funding from Medicaid to address the opioid crisis.
And the same can be said for many Republican senators who have seen this epidemic shatter communities in their states.
It is nothing short of hypocrisy for them to say they are taking this American public health crisis seriously when they are pushing through a bill that will slash Medicaid funding by hundreds of billions of dollars.
No amount of grant funding that the Majority Leader or President Trump point to can make up for the impact of these heartless Medicaid cuts.
And this is just one of the many reasons this bill is so appalling.
I sincerely hope that enough of my Republican colleagues hit the pause button to take a look at what’s actually in this disastrous bill they are rushing so quickly to pass.
Maybe then they will start to understand how devastating this will be for the communities they represent.
Maybe then we can get to work on the problems with health care that we all agree need attention.