Durbin Discusses Initiatives to Combat Heroin and Prescription Opioid Epidemic
ROCKFORD – As the heroin and prescription opioid abuse epidemic continues to impact communites arond Illinois and the country, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) today met with local advocates, first responders, health professionals, and people whose lives have been impacted by addiction to discuss efforts to combat the crisis. Durbin has introduced several pieces of legislation to expand treatment for heroin addiction and increase access to drug prevention programs that have been proven to save lives, as well as legislation that seeks to prevent addiction before it starts by curbing the volume of addictive painkillers on the market.
“In recent years, Illinois – like the rest of the country – has seen an alarming increase in drug overdose deaths. Everyone who plays a role in this crisis needs to step up and take responsibility toward a solution,” Durbin said. “The ongoing opioid epidemic shines a light on the need for comprehensive action from all stakeholders - law enforcement, health care providers, pharmaceutical companies, and our federal and state agencies. With opioid and heroin use on the rise, we should be committing serious resources to improving access to treatment, as well as limiting the sheer number of narcotic painkillers flooding our streets.”
Illinois suffered 1,652 overdose deaths in 2014 – a 30 percent increase over 2010 – of which 40 percent were associated with heroin. Illinois is ranked number one in the nation for a decline in treatment capacity between 2007 and 2012, and is now ranked the third worst in the country for state-funded treatment capacity. Currently, less than 12 percent of Illinoisans in need of substance abuse treatment actually receive it.
In Winnebago County, there have been 25 heroin-related deaths as of July 1 this year. In 2015, there were 42 heroin-related deaths in the county, twice the number from 2011. Additionally, the Rockford Fire Department has saved the lives of 95 people so far this year by administering naloxone – a drug that reverses the effects of an opioid overdose.
This month the House and Senate passed the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), which authorizes grants to help states adopt a comprehensive approach to the opioid crisis that involves law enforcement, the criminal justice system, the public health system, and the recovery support community. The bill has strong bipartisan support – passing with a 92-2 vote in the Senate – but fails to provide the required funding to implement many of the important programs in the legislation. Prior to final passage of the legislation, Republicans in the Senate defeated an amendment – supported by Durbin – that would have provided $600 million in funding to help support opioid abuse prevention and treatment programs. Durbin has emphasized that a crisis of this magnitude requires additional resources to adequately support prevention and treatment programs.
Durbin has introduced several other bills and supported initiaves to both improve access to treatment and prevent addiction:
Expanding Access to Treatment
Durbin has introduced legislation to expand access to treatment for vulnerable populations who currently are not receiving the addiction care they need. The Medicaid Coverage for Addiction Recovery Expansion (Medicaid CARE) Act would modify the Medicaid Institutions for Mental Disease (IMD) Exclusion policy—a decades-old Medicaid policy that has had the unintended consequence of limiting treatment for the most at-risk populations. The measure would allow more than 2,000 additional Medicaid recipients in Illinois to receive care annually.
Durbin applauded a policy change made earlier this month by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to raise the cap on the number of patients licensed providers (including physicians, nurse practitioners and physicians assistants) can treat using medication-assisted therapies, including buprenorphine, from 100 to 275. Durbin, a cosponsor of the Recovery Enhancement for Addiction Treatment Act (TREAT Act), has been advocating for this policy change for more than a year.
Last year, Durbin introduced the Overdose Prevention Act which aims to decrease the rate of drug overdose deaths by improving access to naloxone - a drug that reverses the effects of an opioid overdose. The bill would provide funding to community-based organizations to purchase and distribute naloxone and carry out overdose prevention activities, such as educating prescribers and pharmacists or training first responders.
Illinois suffered 1,652 overdose deaths in 2014 – a 30% increase over 2010 – of which 40% were associated with heroin. Illinois is ranked number one in the nation for a decline in treatment capacity between 2007 and 2012, and is now ranked the third worst in the country for state-funded treatment capacity. Currently, less than 12 percent of Illinoisans in need of substance abuse treatment actually receive it.
Last month, Senator Durbin introduced comprehensive legislation to prevent prescription opioid addiction, as four out of five heroin users started by misusing prescription opioids. The Addiction Prevention and Responsible Opioid Practices Act (A-PROP Act) would curb the number of opioids flooding the market, increase accountability to ensure responsible prescribing practices, and support prevention efforts to reduce drug diversion and addiction.
Yesterday, Durbin sent a letter to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), calling on the agency to use its power to more aggressively combat the opioid epidemic that is affecting communities across Illinois and the country. With its existing quota-setting authority, DEA effectively serves as a gatekeeper for how many opioids can be produced and sold in the United States every year. Durbin has urged DEA to help keep the dangerous pills from flooding the U.S. market by setting lower quotas in the coming years.
Deaths from prescription opioids—drugs like oxycodone and hydrocodone – have quadrupled since 1999 and four out of five new heroin users started out by misusing prescription opioids. In 2014, health care providers in the United States wrote 245 million prescriptions for painkillers, enough for every adult American to have a month’s supply of pills.
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