WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) today helped secure nearly $4 billion to combat the addiction epidemic through two critical appropriations bills that expected to become law this week. Last month, Brown fought to include $3.8 billion in funding through the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (L-HHS) Appropriations Bill to help fund prevention initiatives and treatment for individuals struggling with addiction. He also fought to include $10 million in funding through the Defense Appropriations Bill to create a program at the Department of Defense (DOD) to research opioid alternatives or non-addictive methods to treat and manage chronic pain.
Now that the appropriations package has been agreed to by both the House and Senate, it is expected to be passed by the House and head to the President’s desk for signature.
“When it’s easier for Americans to get their hands on opioids than it is for them to access non-addictive alternatives and treatments, we have a serious problem. These bills continue critical investments through traditional programs and create creative, new approaches to help solve the addiction crisis through important research already happening at the Defense Department,” Brown said.
Defense Appropriations Funding
The funds for the new DOD research program were included as part of the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program (CDMRP) within the Senate’s Defense Appropriations, which passed the Senate last month. Brown led a letter in April urging the Committee to include these funds in their bill. CDMRP would drive innovation in the medical community and seek to find solutions for medical challenges facing servicemembers. The creation of this research program would focus on chronic pain management as well as treatment for service-related injuries and stress, as well as developing therapies to prevent dependence on opioids and other addictive substances.
Servicemembers can suffer from chronic pain that is often attributed to a multitude of factors, both combat-related and stress-related as a result their service to our country. With few options outside of prescription opioids, members of the military can be reliant on highly addictive substances, such as opioids, to manage this pain. The Department of Veterans Affairs released a study in 2016 that shows veterans who receive the highest doses of opioid painkillers are twice as likely to die by suicide as those who receive lower doses. Over the past 12 years, there has been an increase in prescriptions for opioids among veterans by over 270 percent, which shows the growing use of these highly addictive substances. The risks of servicemembers and veterans becoming addicted to opioids are both a combat readiness challenge and a significant challenge for family and communities that rely on and support them while serving and after.
Labor and Health Appropriations Funding
The L-HHS bill would direct $3.8 billion toward the prevention and treatment of addiction. This is an increase of $206 million. Of the $3.8 billion in total funding, the bill would provide $1.5 billion for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s state opioid response grant program, which continues a 15 percent set-aside for states with the highest mortality rate related to opioid use disorders, like Ohio.