March 10, 2016

Senate Passes Bill Kaine Cosponsored To Fight Opioid Abuse Epidemic

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Tim Kaine praised passage of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), a bill that will help expand opioid abuse prevention and education efforts. The bill takes a comprehensive approach to addressing a crisis that claimed more lives in Virginia in 2014 than vehicle crashes. It also includes a bipartisan amendment that Kaine introduced to help protect seniors who are vulnerable to medication abuse.  

“Across Virginia, we continue to see the tragic consequences of opioid abuse on our communities. I hear from parents who lost children to overdoses, law enforcement officers who face increased drug-related crimes, and people coping with addiction who struggle to get help. Their stories led me to fight this epidemic at the federal level and we saw today that there is a strong consensus in the Senate that we must act. This bill will increase drug treatment services to help get people back on their feet and give first responders and law enforcement the resources they need to save lives. I look forward to continue working in the Senate to advance commonsense legislation that can build on the measures in today’s bill,” Kaine said.

Kaine’s amendment to protect seniors from medication abuse was cosponsored by U.S. Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Pat Toomey (R-PA) and Rob Portman (R-OH) and is based on legislation he introduced last August called the Stopping Medication Abuse and Protecting Seniors Act. The amendment, which is included in CARA, authorizes Medicare Advantage and Medicare Part D prescription plans to utilize a patient review and restriction tool, or ”lock-in” measure. This measure would help identify individuals at risk of addiction, connect them with resources, and restrict them to one pharmacy and one provider when accessing controlled substances. Kaine, a member of the Senate Special Committee on Aging, held a field hearing in Loudoun County last month to examine the ongoing fight against opioid misuse and abuse among older Americans.

Kaine has been a leading voice in the Senate on the importance of addressing the opioid abuse crisis that has had a harmful impact on Virginia communities. Last November, he introduced the Co-prescribing Saves Lives Act, a bipartisan bill that would encourage physicians to co-prescribe the life-saving drug Naloxone alongside opioid prescriptions and would make it more widely available in federal health settings. The bill is scheduled to be marked up by members of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee next week. He is also a cosponsor of the Jason Simcakoski Memorial Opioid Safety Act, bipartisan reform legislation aimed at providing safer and more effective pain management services through the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA).

Nationwide, heroin and opioids account for approximately 25,000 deaths per year. CARA will expand the availability of Naloxone to first responders and law enforcement. The overdose antidote has reversed more than 26,000 overdose cases between 1996 and 2014. CARA will also support additional resources to identify and treat incarcerated individuals struggling with substance use disorders, expand drug take-back efforts to promote safe disposal of unused or unwanted prescriptions, strengthen prescription drug monitoring programs, and launch prescription opioid and heroin treatment and intervention programs.