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Bipartisan caucus aims to address opioid crisis

February 17, 2017
by Julie Miller, Editor in Chief
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Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) and Rep. Stephen F. Lynch (D-Mass.) are bringing together Republicans and Democrats to address the crisis of prescription drug misuse that has challenged red and blue states alike. The bipartisan Congressional Caucus on Prescription Drug Abuse was first initiated in 2010, and the lawmakers say now is a critical time to relaunch the caucus and continue its work.

“In addition to providing like-minded members with a forum to share concerns and best practices from their respective districts, it also enables members to collaborate on a bipartisan basis on federal policies aimed at reducing the scourge of opioid addiction and abuse,” Rogers tells Behavioral Healthcare Executive in an email. “On the heels of CARA [The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2016], the caucus will continue to look for opportunities to ensure that our federal government has sufficient resources and policies in place to respond holistically, incorporating law enforcement, treatment, education and research.”

Rogers says the continuing resolution on federal spending for the start of 2017 has fully funded the $500 million authorized by the 21st Century Cures Act for states to respond to the opioid crisis. States and territories will be awarded funds through a formula based on unmet needs for opioid use disorder treatment and overdose deaths.  He also says the Department of Health and Human Services has already taken the first steps to award funding to states.

“In addition, $37 million in seed funding for newly authorized CARA funding was included in legislation passed by Congress in September, and this caucus will continue to advocate for federal funding to address the drug abuse problem that has impacted so many American families,” he says.   

National efforts

According to Rogers, at the federal level, President Trump has expressed a desire to confront the opioid epidemic, however, raising awareness has never been a top-down operation, but rather a grassroots effort led by families and communities. He cites the National Rx Drug Abuse & Heroin Summit that was first launched by Operation UNITE, a small, not-for-profit organization in rural Kentucky, which now brings thousands of stakeholders together for a national discussion.

“As we continue to do our work, we plan to work in-step with the Trump Administration for life-saving solutions nationwide,” Rogers says.

Rogers and Lynch will serve as co-chairs of the caucus.