September 08, 2016
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine) today called on the President and Senate lawmakers to work together to immediately fund the fight against the opioid and heroin epidemic raging on across Maine and the nation.
In letters to President Obama and the leaders of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Senator King asked that the Administration and Congress work together to fund the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) in any potential Continuing Resolution that is advanced before the end of this month. CARA, which was passed by Congress and signed by the President earlier this year, authorizes government programs to combat the opioid and heroin crisis but does not actually appropriate any money to do so and Congress has since failed to provide funding for it through any other legislation. If the money requested by Senator King is not included in a Continuing Resolution to fund the government at the end of this month, then CARA would likely go unfunded through the rest of the year – at a time when drug-related deaths in Maine are on track to surpass last year’s record numbers.
“As the end of the fiscal year approaches, the top priority for Congress is to fund the government. Given the current state of affairs, funding may come down to a continuing resolution. While Congress works towards identifying funding, the opioid epidemic continues to wreak havoc in communities across the country. Recently, it was announced that Maine may exceed their drug overdose death totals from last year. Given the urgency of this devastating crisis, and the limited opportunities to address it, I write asking you to work with Congressional leaders to include in the continuing resolution for FY17 the $181 million funding authorized by the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA),” Senator King wrote in his letter to President Obama.
“While I appreciate that some of the CARA policies are currently being implemented, it is important to note that some cannot even begin without funding. Therefore, funding is necessary to stem the tide of this scourge. In Maine, a lack of resources contributed to a record 272 drug overdose deaths in 2015, and we are on pace to exceed that number this year with 189 deaths through the first six months of this year,” Senator King continued in a separate letter to the Chair and Ranking Member of the Senate Appropriations Committee. “We simply cannot let another opportunity to fund these efforts, even at these relatively low levels, pass. I urge you both to work to include CARA funding in the FY17 continuing resolution so that people fighting substance use disorders can receive the help they desperately need.”
CARA, which was crafted with the input of a broad range of stakeholders and passed in both chambers on a bipartisan basis, creates a comprehensive response that bolsters prevention, education, treatment and enforcement efforts across the country. Some of these measures include expanding access to medication-assisted treatment, increasing the availability of naloxone, an overdose reversal drug, strengthening prescription drug monitoring programs, and expanding the efforts of law enforcement to prevent illicit opioid use and distribution. However, the law has not been funded by Congress.
Senator King has been a leading proponent of providing adequate funding to fight the heroin and opioid crisis. In January 2016, he cosponsored legislation with Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) that would dedicate $600 million to law enforcement programs at the Department of Justice and treatment programs through the Department of Health and Human Services. The Senate earlier this year rejected that legislation as an amendment to CARA, which Senator King criticized as a “missed opportunity.”
According to the Maine Attorney General, 272 people in Maine died in 2015 as a result of drug overdoses – the vast majority of those deaths were caused by heroin, fentanyl or prescription opioids. It was recently announced that Maine is on pace to exceed that number in 2016, with 189 deaths through the first six months of this year. These deaths come at a time when demand for treatment services has increased while access to them has decreased.