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Shelley Starkey

Senate HELP Committee Holds Hearing on Opioid Crisis

January 11, 2018 | Opioid and Heroin Epidemic | Comments
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On Tuesday, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) hosted a hearing titled “The Opioid Crisis: An Examination of How We Got Here and How We Move Forward.” Discussion amongst committee members and the single witness centered heavily on supporting community-based solutions to quell the opioid epidemic beginning at the local level.

A single witness, Sam Quinones, a journalist and author of Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic, offered testimony and urged those gathered to focus on multifaceted community-level strategies to quell this epidemic. Specifically, Mr. Quinones suggested investing in alternative pain management strategies, offering better prescribing training for young doctors, and increasing access to treatment for substance use disorders within prisons and jails. It is unusual to have only one witness at such hearings. When asked by Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) about potential concrete policy solutions, Mr. Quinones responded, “[The] best idea that I can come up with is to consult those people who are already working on that.”

Committee members on both sides of the aisle agreed that investing funding in local programs would perhaps begin to move the needle on this crisis, but a chasm emerged between the two parties regarding the role of Medicaid expansion in stemming the epidemic. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) asserted that instances of opioid overdoses were directly linked to the Medicaid expansion in his state. Mr. Quinones attributed this to the fact that pills are often the only pain management option in more economically disadvantage communities, and Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH) said the relationship was most likely circumstantial rather than causal.

Watch the full hearing on the HELP Committee’s website.