The opioid epidemic is cutting lives short, tearing families apart, and draining the resources our law enforcement and health care professionals have to treat those battling addiction. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly half a million Americans lost their lives to drug overdoses in 2014. 1,289 of those deaths occurred in Massachusetts. Yet, despite these staggering numbers, the crisis is getting worse. Drug overdose deaths have increased 137 percent since 2010, with opioid related overdose deaths increasing by 200 percent. This crisis touches almost every community in America, and we must do more to address it.
Addiction is a complex disease with no quick or easy solution. Too often, we have treated the opioid epidemic as simply a law enforcement issue. The reality is much more complicated than that. Progress will require a coordinated effort from elected leaders at all levels of government, the medical community, law enforcement, the nonprofit sector, and community partners. I am encouraged by the growing attention to this crisis, and by the action our state and local leaders are taking to combat the epidemic here in the Commonwealth. We need to seize on this growing consensus for action and ensure that our efforts result in real progress for those suffering from addiction, their families, and our communities.
In Washington, as a member of the Bipartisan Taskforce to Combat the Heroin Epidemic, I am fighting for resources for medical and law enforcement professionals who are thinking creatively about how to address the problem. Learn more about the bills I am working on below. Here in the Commonwealth, I am collaborating with our state legislators and supporting community leaders who are taking bold action on the ground.
Ending the opioid epidemic requires that we prevent addiction before it starts and ensure that those battling addiction have access to the treatment resources they need. We must do everything we can to end the stigma and criminalization of this disease and ensure we are not punishing those who are in need of treatment. I am committed to working with Republicans and Democrats in Congress, health and law enforcement professionals, and civic and community leaders in the 6th District and across the Commonwealth to defeat the opioid epidemic. I welcome your input as we work together to end this devastating disease.
Below is a summary of the legislation I am supporting to help end the opioid epidemic:
Establishes a comprehensive, coordinated, balanced strategy through enhanced grant programs that would expand prevention and education efforts while also promoting treatment and recovery. The bill would also provide greater assistance to communities facing a prescription drug crisis to effectively address local issues with a new $5 million Community-Based Coalition Enhancement Grant program for current and former Drug-Free Communities grantees.
Makes a minor tweak to the Affordable Care Act to eliminate an unintended penalty on physicians who refuse to overprescribe opioid drugs. Specifically, the bill de-links Medicare reimbursement from patient satisfaction survey responses on pain management. This bill is supported by the American Medical Association.
Reforms mandatory minimums for drug offenses by reducing the minimums for two and three strike offenders while strengthening sentencing for individuals convicted for trafficking in Fentanyl. The legislation also creates a safety valve to allow judges to sentence certain offenders below the required minimum. Finally, the bill allows mandatory minimums to be reduced retroactively.
Allows prescriptions for opioid medications to be partially filled by pharmacists at the request of patients or doctors. The remainder of the prescription could be filled but not beyond the date that the original prescription would have expired.
Requires the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), in cooperation with the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Department of Defense, and the Drug Enforcement Administration, to convene a Pain Management Best Practices Inter-Agency Task Force to develop and study best practices for pain management and prescription of pain medication.
Directs the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Department of Defense (DOD) to jointly update the VA/DOD Clinical Practice Guideline for Management of Opioid Therapy for Chronic Pain. This legislation includes a bill introduced by Rep. Walorski (R-IN) that improves prescription drug monitoring by requiring the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Clinics to provide specific information about the prescription of opiates and other narcotics to their corresponding statewide prescription drug monitoring program.
Directs the Attorney General to carry out a pilot program to provide grants to local and state law enforcement agencies for programs to divert individuals with low-level drug offenses to drug treatment programs.
Provides an exemption from civil liability for trained and certified officials during the administration of opioid overdose-reversing drugs.
Increases the number of patients a doctor could treat with buprenorphine for opioid addiction from 30 to 100 patients per year. It would also allow qualified nurse practitioners and physician assistants to prescribe the medication and give doctors the ability to remove the patient cap after one year.
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