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Senate health committee, led by Senator Murray, holds second bipartisan hearing on opioid crisis 

Despite White House’s own Council of Economic Advisors estimating cost of opioid crisis at over $500 billion, President Trump has repeatedly failed to support increased investments to combat epidemic – MORE HERE 

Senator Murray: “For the countless patients and families suffering from this epidemic there is no tomorrow and there is no next time…we [must] make progress to address this truly devastating public health crisis”

(Washington, D.C.) – The Senate health committee, led by Senator Murray, today held its second bipartisan hearing on the response to the opioid crisis with providers, public safety and state health officials. As she has traveled around Washington state, Senator Murray has heard from countless patients, families, medical providers, and law enforcement members about the devastating effects of the opioid crisis on local communities and received valuable insight into how the epidemic impacts Washington state.  

In prepared remarks for today’s hearing submitted for the record, Senator Murray, the top Democrat on the committee, called on the Trump Administration to finally commit to supporting the substantial new investments that states, communities, and hospitals are making very clear they need to make progress on this crisis. Additionally, Senator Murray highlighted bipartisan efforts in Congress to address the opioid crisis, such as the 21st Century Cures Act and the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, but urged further action to adequately address this public health emergency.  

Key excerpts of Senator Murray’s opening statement, submitted for the record:

“For the countless patients and families suffering from this epidemic—there is no tomorrow and there is no next time…it is absolutely critical that we make progress to address this truly devastating public health crisis—and that we do so in a bipartisan manner.”

“The opioid crisis is something I hear about every weekend I go back home. And I’ve visited with countless communities that have just been devastated by addiction…this epidemic does not discriminate—it can reach anyone—and it can reach anywhere.”

“We have seen increased public awareness around this crisis—we are learning more about addiction each day—but we continue to lack the increased investments and response needed from this Administration that would truly help states and communities address this complex challenge.”

“President Trump’s attempt at appearing to take action did nothing to give states and communities the resources they so desperately need—and in fact suggested that this problem could be addressed by using funding for other public health priorities, which underestimates the needs in all these areas.”

“This was deeply disappointing. And unfortunately, it represents a pattern of tough talk, no action that we’ve seen time and again from this Administration.”

Congress has taken some steps, thanks to our bipartisan efforts on this Committee, to address the opioid crisis…I am proud of our work to pass the 21st Century Cures Act, which included nearly $1 billion for states to address the opioid crisis…and the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act which supports specific outreach for veterans and pregnant and postpartum women suffering from addiction, and expands access to medication assisted treatment.”

“These were important steps—no doubt about it. But we can and must do more.”

Full text of Senator Murray’s opening statement, submitted for the record:

Thank you, Chairman Alexander.

And thank you for your continued commitment to hold these bipartisan hearings on the opioid crisis.

Needless to say, there’s a whole lot going on right now in the U.S. Senate.

And frankly, there’s been a lot of strong disagreement and at times very heated discussions around several issues the so-called tax “reform” package being jammed through today, with yet another attack on families’ health care, we have end of the year spending deadlines—you name it.

But I hope we can all agree that the opioid crisis is an issue that—no matter what else is going on—cannot afford further inaction.

As many have heard me say on this Committee: for the countless patients and families suffering from this epidemic—there is no tomorrow and there is no next time.

So—it is absolutely critical that we make progress to address this truly devastating public health crisis—and that we do so in a bipartisan manner. 

Now—I am pleased that we are joined today by a diverse group of witnesses—providers, public safety officials, and state health officials—who are on the front lines fighting this epidemic, and who can speak to what is going on on the ground and what more we in Congress can do to help them address this crisis.

I am also interested in learning more about ways we can help bring communities together to prevent and combat addiction—and how that compares with what I am hearing back in my home state of Washington.

Because, like everyone here, the opioid crisis is something I hear about every weekend I go back home. And I’ve visited with countless communities that have just been devastated by addiction.

This epidemic does not discriminate—it can reach anyone—and it can reach anywhere.

I’ve listened to doctors who are treating skyrocketing numbers of babies born addicted to opioids; parents who have lost sons and daughters—children who have lost moms and dads—to an overdose; and veterans with chronic pain who also struggle, each and every day, with addiction.

The list, unfortunately, goes on and on. So—I will repeat this every time I can—this epidemic is not somebody else's problem. It's all of ours.

And so, again, that’s why I am very glad we have the opportunity today to discuss this further and to hear from those closest to the ground about what they are seeing.

Now—right off the bat—it’s clear to me there are steps we can take right now that would make a tremendous difference in this fight.

We have seen increased public awareness around this crisis—we are learning more about addiction each day—but we continue to lack the increased investments and response needed from this Administration that would truly help states and communities address this complex challenge.

Now—as we all know, late last month, President Trump finally issued a memorandum to the Department of Health and Human Services and other agencies on the opioid crisis.

And I had hoped this announcement would bring about a much-needed change of course, and that President Trump would finally commit to supporting the substantial new investments that states, communities, and hospitals are making very clear they need to make progress on this crisis.

Unfortunately, President Trump’s attempt at appearing to take action did nothing to give states and communities the resources they so desperately need—and in fact suggested that this problem could be addressed by using funding for other public health priorities, which underestimates the needs in all these areas.

This was deeply disappointing. And unfortunately, it represents a pattern of tough talk, no action that we’ve seen time and again from this Administration.

And just to further underscore how inadequate this Administration’s response to the opioid crisis has been—earlier this month, the White House’s own Council of Economic Advisors released a report estimating the economic cost of the opioid crisis to be at over $500 billion dollars—just for 2015.

That is six times larger than the most recently estimated economic cost of the opioid epidemic. So—we desperately need this Administration to be a partner in fighting this epidemic. But unfortunately what we continue to see is simply not enough.

Now—Congress has taken some steps, thanks to our bipartisan efforts on this Committee, to address the opioid crisis.

Like everyone here, I am proud of our work to pass the 21st Century Cures Act, which included nearly $1 billion for states to address the opioid crisis through prevention, treatment, and recovery efforts.

And CARA—the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act—which supports specific outreach for veterans and pregnant and postpartum women suffering from addiction, and expands access to medication assisted treatment.

These were important steps—no doubt about it. But we can and must do more.

And as we continue to consider further action, I am committed to ensuring we have strong congressional oversight over Cures and CARA so they have the intended benefits and impact for patients and families.

So—there’s a whole lot more to discuss—but I would also like to make sure we leave as much time as possible for questions.

I would just again thank you—Chairman Alexander—and all our colleagues for their continued efforts to tackle this pressing challenge.

I know there are many efforts being spearheaded by our colleagues on this Committee that would make progress and build upon our work thus far.

And I hope our discussion today can better inform and add to all those efforts. 

Thank you again to our witnesses—I look forward to your testimony.