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Murray secured critical investments and reforms in the bipartisan 21st Century Cures Act

Bipartisan bill to help tackle opioid epidemic, strengthen mental health care, advance medical innovation, and combat growing threat of “superbugs”

Murray say these efforts “will make a real difference for patients and families across the country, now and years into the future.” 

Tells the story of WA state families affected by opioid addiction, mental illness 

Watch HERE

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) delivered remarks on the Senate floor on the bipartisan 21st Century Cures Act, which invests in a wide range of health priorities, including $1 billion in funding to tackle the opioids epidemic, critical steps to strengthen our mental health care system, a strong investment of $4.8 billion in the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and oversight reforms to help protect patients and families from the growing threat of infection from antibiotic-resistant bacteria or “superbugs.” 

In order to ensure all Americans benefit from this new research, Senator Murray also pushed for policy changes that will require NIH to improve the inclusion of diverse populations in research, including women, individuals of all ages, members of the LGBT community, and racial and ethnic minorities. The bill also establishes a task force to address gaps in knowledge and research regarding safe and effective therapies for pregnant women and lactating women.

In her remarks, Senator Murray highlighted stories of Washington state constituents Penny LeGate, whose daughter Marah died of an overdose at just 19, and Jenny, whose husband tragically took his own life after cycling in and out of the hospital without receiving effective treatment to address his mental illness.

Key excerpts from Senator Murray’s remarks:

“M. President, I’m proud of our country’s history of life-saving public health initiatives and world-changing medical innovation. From eradicating smallpox to mapping the human genome—we’ve risen to challenges and found ways to combat seemingly unbeatable diseases and public health threats. And there’s no question we are stronger for it as a country. The bill we’re discussing today—while far from perfect—gives us a chance to build on that tradition of leadership and respond to some urgent health challenges we face right now.

“I was glad that earlier this year, the Senate passed the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act to strengthen and improve programs that address opioid addiction. But as Democrats made clear—improving policy wasn’t enough. Tackling this crisis head-on requires putting new investments into these efforts as quickly as possible. That’s what this bill will do. It dedicates $1 billion over two years—above and beyond the budget caps—to help states and communities fight back. And critically, we were able to secure changes that ensure this money will go to states based on where it is most needed.

“I’ve also heard from people across Washington state and the country about what our broken mental health system means for them and their families. Our legislation will help expand access to quality care for mental illness and substance use disorders by making it easier for patients to get in touch with providers. It will strengthen coordination between local agencies engaged in crisis intervention. And it will make sure resources are available to strengthen the mental health workforce.

“We’ve made enormous progress in understanding and treating cancer. And, we know more about how the brain works and what diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and traumatic injuries do to the human mind. But we can and must do more—and that is exactly what the investments in NIH in this bill will mean. While this isn’t the mandatory funding we’d hoped for, I want to be very clear: this is real funding. $4.8 billion is paid for within this bill, targeted to specific NIH initiatives, and available to appropriators above and beyond the budget caps.  That means as result of this legislation…we will be able to invest billions right away in better understanding, preventing, and treating diseases that have impacted so many families.

“As Democrats have made clear throughout this process, upholding the gold standard of FDA approval that patients and families across the country trust is a top priority. In light of the antibiotic-resistant infections linked to contaminated medical devices called duodenoscopes in Seattle and across the country, it was particularly important to me to make sure that this bill strengthened the FDA’s authority to require that medical device manufacturers ensure their products will remain safe after they’ve gone into repeated use at hospitals.

“M. President—while this bill is not what I would have written on my own, it is certainly not what my colleagues on the other side of the aisle would have written on their own, either. It locks in critical advancements ahead of the incoming Administration and the partisan approach they are signaling they will take on health care. And it will make a real difference for patients and families across the country, now and years into the future.”

Full text of Senator Murray’s remarks:  

“Thank you, M. President.

“I want to start by expressing my appreciation to all my colleagues who have worked so hard on priorities in this bill: investing in tackling our hardest-to-treat diseases, confronting the opioid epidemic, strengthening mental health care, and advancing medical innovation.

“The legislation we’re voting on today takes important steps to improve the care that patients receive, and I’m grateful to every Senator and member of Congress who worked across the aisle to make this legislation the best it could be for those we serve.  

“In particular, I want to express my heartfelt thanks to Vice President Joe Biden.

“Not everyone has the strength to respond to profound personal tragedy by doing even more to protect and help others—but that’s exactly what he’s done.

“I know we are all grateful for and inspired by his leadership.  I’m confident it has given a lot of families hope to know Joe Biden is fighting for them and for their loved ones.

“And, of course, I want to acknowledge and thank the Chairman of the HELP Committee, Senator Alexander, for his work and leadership on this bill, as well as Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton, Ranking Member Frank Pallone, and Congresswoman Diana DeGette.

“M. President, I’m proud of our country’s history of life-saving public health initiatives and world-changing medical innovation.

“From eradicating smallpox to mapping the human genome—we’ve risen to challenges and found ways to combat seemingly unbeatable diseases and public health threats.

“And there’s no question we are stronger for it as a country.

“The bill we’re discussing today—while far from perfect—gives us a chance to build on that tradition of leadership and respond to some urgent health challenges we face right now.

“One of these is the opioid epidemic.

“Like many of my colleagues, I have heard from far too many families and local leaders in my home state about the ways opioid use disorders are ruining lives and tearing families apart.

“My constituent Penny LeGate, whose daughter Marah died of an overdose at just 19, said that this crisis “can happen anywhere. It is everywhere.”

“And that’s the same thing I’ve heard from other worried parents, sheriffs, and community leaders across Washington state.

“I was glad that earlier this year, the Senate passed the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act to strengthen and improve programs that address opioid addiction.

“But as Democrats made clear—improving policy wasn’t enough.

“Tackling this crisis head-on requires putting new investments into these efforts as quickly as possible.

“That’s what this bill will do.

“It dedicates $1 billion over two years—above and beyond the budget caps—to help states and communities fight back.

“And critically, we were able to secure changes that ensure this money will go to states based on where it is most needed.

“Many of my colleagues were closely involved in this effort, but in particular I want to recognize Senators Whitehouse, Shaheen, Baldwin, Markey, Donnelly, and Manchin.

“I’ve also heard from people across Washington state and the country about what our broken mental health system means for them and their families.

“One constituent whose experience has really stuck with me is Jenny’s.

“Jenny is from Olympia, Washington. She was pregnant when her husband began having severe psychotic episodes.

“Jenny says she remembers how striking the differences were between the coordinated, thoughtful care she received as an expecting mother, and the confusing patchwork that she and her husband had to navigate to try to help him get better.

“Jenny’s husband cycled in and out of the hospital without effective treatment. Tragically, he took his own life while Jenny was in the NICU with their newborn baby.

“Jenny’s story is unfortunately one of many about families struggling to find quality care for loved ones with mental illness.

“I’m confident that all of us here today have heard these stories. We know we have got to do better.

“Our legislation will help expand access to quality care for mental illness and substance use disorders by making it easier for patients to get in touch with providers.

“It will strengthen coordination between local agencies engaged in crisis intervention.

“And it will make sure resources are available to strengthen the mental health workforce.

“While we weren’t able to resolve the IMD exclusion—a policy that makes it extremely difficult for states to provide inpatient care to those with mental illness and substance use disorders—this bill does change policy so that federal funding will fully support the physical health needs of children in psychiatric facilities.

“It also puts in place measures to strengthen our mental health parity laws, to make sure that health insurance will cover mental health and addiction services when it is needed.

“Chairman Alexander and I worked with Senators Murphy and Cassidy to move this legislation through the committee this year.

“I want to recognize their commitment and leadership on this issue in particular.

“M. President, in addition to investing in tackling the opioid epidemic and putting in place desperately needed reforms to our mental health care system, this legislation makes real investments in tackling the hardest-to-treat diseases.

“According to the National Cancer Institute at the NIH, 40 percent of men and women in the United States will be diagnosed with some form of cancer in their lives.

“Right now, more than 5 million people are living with Alzheimer’s.

“These are truly staggering statistics—and they represent enormous hardship, suffering, and loss in nearly every family and community.

“We’ve made enormous progress in understanding and treating cancer.

“And, we know more about how the brain works and what diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and traumatic injuries do to the human mind.

“But we can and must do more—and that is exactly what the investments in NIH in this bill will mean.

“While this isn’t the mandatory funding we’d hoped for, I want to be very clear: this is real funding.

“$4.8 billion is paid for within this bill, targeted to specific NIH initiatives, and available to appropriators above and beyond the budget caps.

“That means as result of this legislation—and thanks in particular to the leadership and vision of Vice President Biden—we will be able to invest billions right away in better understanding, preventing, and treating diseases that have impacted so many families.

“And this bill also ensures that those investments in research will benefit all Americans including women, children, LGBT individuals, and racial and ethnic minorities.

“This bill also puts $500 million—above and beyond the budget caps— toward helping the FDA meet the same high standards of patient and consumer safety in the face of increasing demands on the agency and new responsibilities under this legislation.

“As Democrats have made clear throughout this process, upholding the gold standard of FDA approval that patients and families across the country trust is a top priority.

“In light of the antibiotic-resistant infections linked to contaminated medical devices called duodenoscopes in Seattle and across the country, it was particularly important to me to make sure that this bill strengthened the FDA’s authority to require that medical device manufacturers ensure their products will remain safe after they’ve gone into repeated use at hospitals.

“We also fought hard to move many of the other FDA reform polices included in this bill in the direction of greater patient and consumer safety.

“In particular, I was pleased we were able to take out legislation that would have watered down transparency around drug and device industry payments to doctors.

“And I appreciate that my colleagues on the other side of the aisle were ultimately willing to work with us to make these changes.

“Looking ahead to next year, I plan to monitor implementation of this bill extremely closely with a focus on ensuring: the incoming Administration adheres to the policies laid out in this bill, and upholds the FDA’s responsibility to patients and families to ensure our medicines and treatments are safe and effective.

“This standard has been critical to fueling biomedical innovation in America for over half a century.

“And, while I am disappointed that Republicans were unwilling to take action in this legislation to tackle the high costs of prescription drugs, I’m glad we were able to remove expensive provisions that could have driven up costs for consumers even more. 

“M. President—while this bill is not what I would have written on my own, it is certainly not what my colleagues on the other side of the aisle would have written on their own, either.

“It locks in critical advancements ahead of the incoming Administration and the partisan approach they are signaling they will take on health care.

“And it will make a real difference for patients and families across the country, now and years into the future.

“Before I wrap up, I want to acknowledge the extraordinary time and effort put in by all of the staffs. 

“There have been many late nights and weekends for our staffs, not just this year but last year as well on this bill, and I want to take a moment to recognize their extraordinary efforts and sacrifice.  

“On Senator Alexander’s staff, I want to particularly acknowledge and thank his Staff Director David Cleary, as well as Mary-Sumpter Lapinski and Grace Stuntz, his health and FDA policy leads, who worked closely with my staff over many months.

“I also want to acknowledge and thank Margaret Coulter, Brett Meeks, Laura Pence, Melissa Pfaff, Kara Townshend, and Elizabeth Wroe for your efforts on this bill.

“In the House, I want to recognize and thank the staff of Congressman Pallone, including his staff director Jeff Carroll, along with Tiffany Guarascio his health policy lead.  And I want to thank the staff of Chairman Upton, particularly his staff director Gary Andres, and Paul Edattel, his health policy lead. 

“In addition, I want to thank the staff of my Members on the HELP Committee, who worked so closely with my staff to make this a reality.  In particular, I want to thank David Bonine and Joe Dunn with Congressman Murphy.

“And I want to acknowledge the assistance of Amy Rosenbaum, Jeanne Lambrew, Kate Mevis, and Dr. Francis Collins, among many others within the administration, who helped make today possible.      

“And finally, M. President, I want to close by thanking my staff.  I can’t say enough about my incredible staff who have put their time and talents into this bill from the word go.  In particular, I want to thank my Staff Director Evan Schatz and my Health Policy Director Nick Bath for their extraordinary efforts on this legislation.  Thank you.

“I also want to acknowledge the hard work of Remy Brim, Julie Tierney, Andi Fristedt, Colin Goldfinch, Melanie Rainer, Madeleine Pannell, Megan Howard, Elizabeth Wagner, Wade Ackerman, Kalah Auchincloss, Jane Bigham, Helen Hare, Eli Zupnick, John Righter, Nick McLane, and my chief of staff, Mike Spahn.  I noticed your long hours and unwavering commitment on this legislation.

“I urge my colleagues to join the House, which voted overwhelmingly in support of this bill, 392-26, and to join me in sending this legislation to President Obama’s desk.

“Thank you and I yield the floor.”

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