WASHINGTON, DC — U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) joined Senate colleagues in a letter to President Trump calling for the release of critical resources that have been designated to address the nation’s opioid epidemic. The 21st Century Cures Act, which Brown supported, was passed in December 2016 and includes $1 billion in federal grant funding to help support states like Ohio, Wisconsin, and New Hampshire, which have been hardest-hit by the opioid epidemic. While the bill was signed into law last December, the resources have yet to be distributed to states like Ohio that are in critical need of additional resources.
“As individuals, families and communities across the country continue to be devastated by the opioid epidemic, we write to urge you to take action immediately to award the $1 billion in opioid treatment resources that we provided as part of the 21st Century Cures Act last year,” the letter stated. “With 91 Americans dying every day from an opioid overdose, the time for action is now.”
The letter also outlined the Senators’ concerns regarding the use of funding from the 21st Century Cures Act to offset cuts to other federal resources that would address opioid or substance use disorders. The Senators called on Trump to fully fund federal prevention, treatment, and recovery efforts.
Brown has worked to combat the scourge of opioid use in Ohio. Brown urged Governor George “Sonny” Perdue, President Trump’s nominee to serve as the Secretary of U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), to continue USDA’s efforts to fight the opioid epidemic in Ohio communities. USDA has helped in the fight against opioids through its Rural Development grant programs, like the Community Facilities Program—which helps rural communities expand local resources like medical facilities and public safety services. Brown supported a strong Rural Development title in the 2014 Farm Bill to provide economic support to rural communities.
Brown also worked with his colleagues Sens. Ed Markey (D-MA), Marco Rubio (R-FL), and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) to introduce bipartisan legislation to help U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) keep the deadly synthetic opioid, fentanyl, out of the country. Brown’s bill, the INTERDICT Act, would provide CBP with additional high-tech screening equipment and lab resources to detect fentanyl before it enters the U.S. According to a report from the Ohio Department of Health, fentanyl-related overdose deaths in Ohio more than doubled from 503 in 2014 to 1,155 in 2015. Brown has also fought against efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which has enabled more than 900,000 Ohioans with health insurance, including more than 200,000 who are currently receiving treatment for their addiction because of the ACA.
Last Congress, Brown introduced legislation that would help address the opioid epidemic from prevention to recovery, filling in gaps that would help: boost prevention, improve tools for crisis response for those who fall through the cracks, expand access to treatment, and provide support for lifelong recovery. Brown supported the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), signed into law last year, which included his provision to combat drug abuse within Medicare by locking those with a history of addiction into one prescriber and one pharmacy to help mitigate the risk of prescribing opioids to at-risk patients. Brown was also a cosponsor of the Jason Simcakoski Memorial Opioid Safety Act, which passed into law as part of CARA and will help provide safer and more effective pain management services to our nation’s veterans. He has also worked to expand use of medication-assisted treatment or MAT, which was included in CARA, and cosponsored The Recovery Enhancement for Addiction Treatment (TREAT) Act to further increase access to this form of treatment.
A copy of the letter is included below.
Dear President Trump:
As individuals, families and communities across the country continue to be devastated by the opioid epidemic, we write to urge you to take action immediately to award the $1 billion in opioid treatment resources that we provided as part of the 21st Century Cures Act last year. With 91 Americans dying every day from an opioid overdose, the time for action is now.
The opioid epidemic is getting worse. In 2015, opioids killed more than 33,000 people, more than any year on record. An estimated 2.5 million Americans have an opioid use disorder, and opioid overdoses have quadrupled since 1999. Death rates continue to rise and have increased sharply for synthetics, like illicitly-manufactured fentanyl, and heroin. These trends must be reversed.
To help respond, Congress included $1 billion in the 21st Century Cures Act over two years for States to expand opioid use disorder treatment. The law requires that the resources be allocated based on need. It has been nearly four months since Congress made this funding available and in the face of an urgent public health crisis, we urge you to get these critical resources in the hands of States now. Congress provided this funding so that individuals and families would be able to get the treatment they need. Every day that passes without these resources being allocated is a missed opportunity for someone to embark on recovery.
We also strongly believe that none of the funding made available through the 21st Century Cures Act should be used to offset cuts to other opioid or substance use disorder funding in the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Given the nearly 18 percent reduction to HHS in your Fiscal Year 2018 Budget Blueprint, we are concerned that other existing funding to opioid and substance use disorder prevention, treatment and recovery services at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the National Institute for Drug Abuse could be reduced. We oppose any such efforts and urge you to fully funded current opioid and substance use disorder prevention, treatment and recovery efforts in addition to the 21st Century Cures funding.
As we continue to look for any and all opportunities to combat the opioid epidemic, we urge you to provide States with the treatment resources made available through the 21st Century Cures Act, and to work with Congress to continue to combat the opioid epidemic.