WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) called the Trump Administration’s Nationwide Public Health Emergency to address the opioid crisis an important step, and urged the Administration to follow through with concrete actions, including needed investment in the fight against the opioid epidemic. This announcement comes eleven weeks after the Administration first signaled it would take this step. Brown has worked with members of both parties to secure federal resources and address the opioid crisis in Ohio communities, which have been hit particularly hard.

“This declaration is an important step – but it is long overdue and will mean nothing if it isn’t followed with immediate actions,” said Brown. “We need to make it just as easy for Ohioans to seek treatment as it is for them to find opioids and heroin on the streets. That means President Trump must use this declaration to boost treatment, invest in the people and programs that fight this every day, and make treatment more affordable.”

While the emergency declaration does reportedly take steps to expand access to telemedicine services for prescribing and allow public health agencies to utilize additional flexibility in hiring, it fails to provide Ohioans with the resources necessary to deal with this growing epidemic. Brown is hopeful the Trump Administration will now take important steps that Brown has called for to address the crisis, including additional funding and lifting an outdated cap on the number of beds covered by Medicaid at residential treatment facilities in states like Ohio. Brown has a bill with Senator Rob Portman, which would also lift the outdated cap.

In declaring the opioid epidemic a national emergency, the Trump Administration could also increase access to care by taking other important steps that Brown has called for to address the crisis, including additional funding and taking steps to negotiate better prices for the overdose reversal drug naloxone. Unfortunately, this emergency declaration reportedly fails to take these important steps, which Trump’s commission recommended, leaving communities in Ohio without the tools they need to fight this epidemic.  

The Trump Administration’s declaration of a national emergency comes following recommendation from the Administration’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis. Several of the Commission’s recommendations are proposals Brown has worked on, including:

  • Eliminating an outdated cap on the number of beds at substance abuse treatment facilities that can be covered under Medicaid. Current law limits use of Medicaid funding for residential mental health or substance abuse treatment to facilities with just 16 beds or less, which prevents many Ohioans from getting the help they need. Brown has legislation with Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) to lift the cap so Ohioans can get care. The Commission’s report notes this is one of the quickest ways to get people into treatment.
  • Increasing access to medication-assisted treatment (MAT). Brown has worked on legislation to expand use of MAT, which was included in the Comprehensive Addiction Recovery Act (CARA), which Brown supported. He has also cosponsored The Recovery Enhancement for Addiction Treatment Act (TREAT Act) to further expand access to this effective form of treatment.
  • Increasing access to naloxone. Brown has called on the government to boost funding to help first responders maintain a supply of naloxone and supported CARA, which authorized funding for overdose reversal drugs.
  • Providing more resources to Customs and Border Patrol to keep fentanyl out of the U.S. Brown teamed up with Senator Portman on a pair of bills to help block the flow of fentanyl to Ohio communities, the INTERDICT and STOP Acts. The STOP Act, which Brown is cosponsoring, would help USPS detect these drugs. Brown’s INTERDICT ACT provides Customs and Border agents with additional resources to screen for fentanyl safely and effectively. The bill passed in the House of Representatives this week, and now awaits Senate passage.