04.11.18

Senator Murray Credits Bipartisan Focus on Listening for Progress in New Opioids Bill

Last week Ranking Member Murray and Chairman Alexander announced a discussion draft of bipartisan legislation to address the opioid crisis

 

The package of proposals was developed over 6 months of HELP Committee hearings highlighting the perspectives of families and experts facing the epidemic

 

Senator Murray has also held events on the crisis in Washington state and brought stories she’s heard there to Washington, D.C.

 

Senator Murray: “This bill is a testament to the value of listening.”

 

New legislation comes weeks after the Senator Murray fought successfully to include a major opioid funding package in the bipartisan spending deal

 

***WATCH SEN. MURRAY’S OPENING REMARKS HERE***

 

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Ranking Member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, delivered opening remarks at a hearing about the Opioid Crisis Response Act of 2018, which Senator Murray and Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN), unveiled last week.

 

In her remarks, Senator Murray reflected on how the Committee’s bipartisan focus on listening to those on the frontlines of the opioid crisis helped members craft legislation to address their concerns. She drew a connection between the stories and insights shared by the people she’s heard from—in D.C. and Washington state—and the proposals included in the Committee’s legislation. The discussion draft includes a set of proposals representing ideas on both sides of the aisle.

 

Key excerpts of Senator Murray’s remarks:

 

“Six months ago, we began a series of bipartisan hearings on the opioid crisis. We began asking questions and seeking answers to learn more about its root causes and ripple effects, and what meaningful action we can take to help our families and communities.”

“In the course of listening to those most directly facing this crisis, both here and back home in Washington state, I’ve heard so many stories about this challenge: families strained by a loved one’s battle with opioid addiction; parents who lost the children they would do anything for to a disease they felt helpless to do anything against; children separated from parents who are suffering from opioid addiction, and unable to care for them; grandparents, relatives, and others who have stepped up to support a victim’s family.”

 

“And this committee has also heard from experts in the field who are fighting this epidemic. We’ve heard from community leaders and state officials…We’ve heard from agency heads and researchers… We’ve heard from a journalist… we’ve heard from Governors about the lessons they’ve learned in the laboratories of democracy that we can put to use on the national level.”

 

“We have heard about the challenges and opportunities, the successes and failures, the hope and the heartbreak of this crisis. And today, we are responding with strong steps that build on our recent work to address it. The bipartisan Opioid Crisis Response Act of 2018 was drafted with serious attention to the concerns we heard. And it offers some serious solutions to help address them.”

 

““While this legislation will not be the last step we take to respond to this crisis, it is a major step. And I want to thank all of my colleagues both on and off this committee, from both sides of the aisle, for their bipartisan work and their dedication to getting this done…. This bill is a testament to the value of listening.”

 

Video of Sen. Murray’s remarks available HERE.

 

Full text below of Sen. Murray’s remarks:

 

“Thank you Mr. Chairman, for your bipartisan work throughout this process. And thank you to the witnesses joining us today, I look forward to your testimony.

 

“Six months ago, we began a series of bipartisan hearings on the opioid crisis. We began asking questions and seeking answers to learn more about its root causes and ripple effects, and what meaningful action we can take to help our families and communities.

 

“In the course of listening to those most directly facing this crisis, both here and back home in Washington state, I’ve heard so many stories about this challenge: families strained by a loved one’s battle with opioid addiction; parents who lost the children they would do anything for to a disease they felt helpless to do anything against; children separated from parents who are suffering from opioid addiction, and unable to care for them; grandparents, relatives, and others who have stepped up to support a victim’s family.

 

“And the burden of this crisis isn’t just borne by individuals, or families—but by entire communities. An elementary principal back in Washington told me about the kids at his school who are unable to focus on their studies because of the trauma of their parents’ disease and the teachers who have to face the challenge of supporting these students and addressing their trauma in the classroom. The staff at a hospital in Washington told me how many of the babies  they deliver are born to mothers suffering from addiction, including opioid addiction.

 

“And this committee has also heard from experts in the field who are fighting this epidemic. We’ve heard from community leaders and state officials about the tools they are using, the tools they still need, and the role of data and technology. We’ve heard from agency heads and researchers about the need for new resources and authorities, and the potential for new discoveries to help treat those struggling with addiction. We’ve heard from a journalist, who followed the crisis closely, about how we got here, and how our communities are the frontlines in turning the tide. And we’ve heard from Governors about the lessons they’ve learned in the laboratories of democracy that we can put to use on the national level.

 

“We have heard about the challenges and opportunities, the successes and failures, the hope and the heartbreak of this crisis. And today, we are responding with strong steps that build on our recent work to address it. 

 

“The bipartisan Opioid Crisis Response Act of 2018 was drafted with serious attention to the concerns we heard. And it offers some serious solutions to help address them. 

 

“This legislation answers the call for more resources to expand effective treatment programs on the state level by reauthorizing and improving the targeted response grants from the 21st Century Cures Act.

 

“It answers the call for better tools to diagnose, prevent, and treat pain and addiction by empowering the National Institutes of Health with more flexibility to support high impact research on public health threats, including this opioid epidemic.

 

“It answers the call for new products and solutions by clarifying the Food and Drug Administration’s authority to require special packaging and safe disposal options, encourage the development and review of non-addictive pain treatments, and keep illicit products from entering our country.

 

“The legislation addresses the need for better data and technology practices so health providers and pharmacies can spot patterns of potential misuse by expanding the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s efforts to support states in improving Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs, and encourage better and faster data collection and sharing between states.

 

“It addresses the need to help our schools and children by developing a taskforce and grants to help support trauma-informed care programs, increasing access to mental health care for children, and supporting state efforts to improve plans of safe care for children born to mothers battling addiction.

 

“And addresses the need to help our strained behavioral health workforce so that patients can get the care they need, even if they live too far from a doctor’s office, by expanding loan repayment to behavioral health providers who practice in underserved areas, increasing access to behavioral health services in areas hardest hit by the epidemic and facing provider shortages, and authorizing new grants to target the workforce shortages in substance use and mental health treatment.

 

“It addresses the need to increase access to treatment by allowing the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to provide grants to help providers establish new recovery centers, by allowing health centers to treat addiction patients with innovative telehealth models and technology that can help them serve rural or remote areas, and by building on our work in the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act to permanently allow nurse practitioners and physician assistants to prescribe Medication-Assisted Treatment.

 

“It addresses the need to give those affected by this disease a path forward by providing grants for workforce training to help them get back on their feet.

 

“And it addresses many other challenges, big and small, that we’ve heard from people across the country working to turn the tide of the opioid epidemic.

 

“While this legislation will not be the last step we take to respond to this crisis, it is a major step. And I want to thank all of my colleagues both on and off this committee, from both sides of the aisle, for their bipartisan work and their dedication to getting this done.

 

“I especially want to thank Chairman Alexander for working with me, and for sharing my focus on bringing as many voices as possible to the table so that we could hear their stories, concerns, and needs firsthand. This bill is a testament to the value of listening. And we’re not done listening yet.

 

“Many of the policies presented here are still works in progress. And we are committed to working together with stakeholders to help make sure we can include as many of the good ideas out there as possible.

 

“I look forward to hearing what our witnesses today have to add to the conversation as we work to get this important bill to the finish line for families across the country.

 

“Thank you.”

 

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