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Michael Petruzzelli

, National Council for Mental Wellbeing

Addictions Reform Bill Nears Vote on Senate Floor

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A comprehensive addiction reform bill is likely headed for a floor vote in the US Senate – the first standalone addictions bill to receive such a vote in years. This week, the bipartisan Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (S. 524) has been the center of attention in the Senate, receiving a number of proposed amendments as the full chamber considers the bill. A long-standing policy priority of the National Council, CARA authorizes much-needed funding in evidence-based prevention, treatment and recovery supports to help Americans struggling with addiction to heroin or opioids.

After an initial procedural vote on Monday, the Senate turned to consideration of a number of amendments, including a $600 million emergency funding measure offered by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) to bolster the opioid and heroin abuse prevention and treatment programs in CARA. “This should be an all-hands-on-deck moment, not just for New Hampshire, but for our country. We are losing lives daily and our first responders, healthcare providers and criminal justice system are overwhelmed,” said Senator Shaheen.

This amendment ultimately failed by a vote of 48-47 on Wednesday.

However, a number of amendments were approved by the Senate chamber including Senator Pat Toomey’s (R-PA) amendment to prevent opioid abuse by locking certain Medicare beneficiaries into one physician and one pharmacy for their painkiller prescriptions, a move intended to prevent abuse or diversion of prescription opioids. This amendment was cosponsored by Senators Sherrod Brown (D-RI) and Robert Casey (D-PA).

“Today, the Senate showed it can work together on a bipartisan basis to address a deadly epidemic affecting so many families in Pennsylvania. By passing the Stopping Medication Abuse and Protecting Seniors Act, we will reduce the scourge of prescription drug and heroin abuse that has touched almost every corner of the commonwealth,” said Senator Toomey.

As the Senate continues debate on this critically important bill, the National Council asks that all interested advocates take a few minutes to ask their Senators to vote “Yes” on CARA when it comes to a full floor vote. Take action here.