Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI),
author of a comprehensive law already on the books to battle the opioid crisis,
scored several victories for Rhode Island in a broad opioid bill passed by the
Senate this evening. The Whitehouse provisions would help to build on the
success Rhode Islanders have had in addressing opioid addiction and promoting
“We know Rhode Island can turn the tide against the opioid
crisis, and we draw strength from the inspiring people walking the long, noble
path of recovery,” said Whitehouse. “I have been working with Rhode
Island’s recovery community, first responders, health care providers, state and
local officials, law enforcement, and others on the front lines of this crisis
to put forward practical, effective solutions like the provisions in this
bill. I am proud to see our work advance.”
Whitehouse’s provisions would increase the amount of funding
congressional appropriators can make available for first responder training,
opioid-related infant care, education and awareness, and recovery
programs. They would also permit the sharing of important data on opioid prescribing
and help test incentives for behavioral health care providers to adopt
electronic health records.
“Senator Whitehouse’s support of efforts to address the
opioid addiction and overdose crisis has made a significant difference in Rhode
Island,” said Rebecca Boss, Director of the Department of Behavioral
Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities & Hospitals. “This legislation
takes our work to the next level, addressing the needs of critical populations:
pregnant women and infants, youth, and people in need of safe and supportive
housing. Senator Whitehouse’s contributions to this comprehensive
legislation will help close the gaps in our service delivery system.”
The wins continue Whitehouse’s bipartisan work to combat the
opioid crisis. Beginning in 2014, Whitehouse and Senator Rob Portman
(R-OH) hosted five forums in Rhode Island and across the country with experts
and practitioners from the prevention, treatment, law enforcement, and recovery
communities to share best practices in their fields. They sought to write
a bill to encourage the use of best practices and authorize funding for
evidence-based education, treatment, and recovery programs that have proven to
work. The result, the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA),
was signed into law in July 2016. Whitehouse and Portman earlier this
year introduced CARA 2.0
to continue their success.
“We appreciate the continued commitment Senator Whitehouse
and his colleagues in the Senate have to providing the resources we need to
combat this crisis,” said Tom Coderre, Senior Advisor to Rhode Island Governor
Gina Raimondo. “Many of the programs outlined in this new version of CARA
align with the strategic plan developed by Governor Raimondo’s Overdose
Intervention and Prevention Task Force.”
There is bipartisan agreement that more resources will be
necessary to help turn the tide of the opioid epidemic. CARA authorized
more than $180 million for evidence-based programs. The legislation
passed today would authorize an additional $101 million for CARA programs.
“This legislation will be a critical support to our work to
strengthen the infrastructure at the local, community level throughout Rhode
Island to prevent overdoses and save lives,” said Nicole Alexander-Scott, MD,
MPH, Director of the Rhode Island Department of Health. “We have lost
more than 1,400 lives to drug overdoses in the last five years. Every one of
those deaths was preventable. I commend Senator Whitehouse for taking the
lead on this issue at the national level and for helping us build healthier
communities here in Rhode Island.”
Because of CARA, Rhode Island has received $3 million over
three years to create ten Centers of Excellence for the treatment of Opioid Use
Disorder, which are a cornerstone of Governor Gina Raimondo’s Overdose
Prevention and Intervention Action Plan. The centers provide rapid access
to medication assisted treatment and comprehensive recovery support services
for people struggling with this chronic disease.
Whitehouse included provisions in the legislation passed
First Responder Training
Improve training for first responders to be better prepared
to handle the powerful opioid fentanyl.
Increase the amount of funding Congress can appropriate for
first responder training from $12 million to $36 million per year.
Caring for Infants & Mothers
Authorize Congress to appropriate $60 million per year to
help states formulate plans to safely care for infants born with opioid-related
Increase the amount of funding Congress can appropriate from
$16.9 million to $29.9 million per year for residential treatment for pregnant
and postpartum women.
Prescription Drug Monitoring & Health Information
Clarify that state Medicaid programs can share data with a
state prescription drug monitoring programs if allowed by state law.
Authorize the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’
Innovation Center to test providing incentives for behavioral health providers
to adopt and use electronic health records.
Building Communities of Recovery
Increase the amount of funding Congress can appropriate to
recovery community organizations, like Anchor Recovery in Rhode Island, from $1
million to $5 million.
Recovery Housing Best Practices
Require the Department of Health and Human Services to issue
best practices for organizations that assist people recovering from an opioid
addiction in securing housing.
Youth Prevention and Recovery Initiative
Require the Secretary of Health and Human Services to share
best practices for preventing substance use disorder and promoting recovery
from substance use disorder in children, adolescents, and young adults.
National Education and Awareness Program
Authorize $486 million to support efforts to prevent
substance use disorders, including through carrying out the education and
awareness program enacted as part of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery
Under this program, the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention will run national programs to raise awareness and educate the public
and health care providers on the dangers of opioids.
The Senate cleared the bipartisan opioid bill today by a
vote of 99-1. The House and the Senate will now negotiate a final version
of the bill.