News Releases

Led by Senator Murray, Senate appropriations subcommittee meets to discuss need to provide emergency supplemental funding to combat opioid epidemic

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 adequate resources for hospitals, communities, states

At hearing, Senator Murray continued to highlight impact of opioid crisis in WA state—“Nearly 10,000 people have died of an opioid overdose since 2000”

Senator Murray: “What’s needed to make a real difference in the lives of countless patients and families in Washington state and across the country struggling from addiction are real, immediate resources to fight this battle on the ground”

“We need more than tough talk from President Trump to address this crisis”

***WATCH VIDEO OF SENATOR MURRAY’S OPENING REMARKS HERE***

(Washington, D.C.) – The Senate Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (LHHS) Appropriations Subcommittee, led by Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) for Senate Democrats, held a hearing today to discuss the additional funding needed to meaningfully respond to the opioid crisis with experts from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

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. 

In her remarks during the hearing and questions with witnesses, Senator Murray called on the Trump Administration to commit to supporting the emergency supplemental funding desperately needed to give States and communities the evidence-based tools to combat the epidemic.

ICYMI—Senator Murray continued to highlight CDC director Brenda Fitzgerald’s absence from yet another hearing on the opioid crisis due to her potential conflicts of interest.

Key excerpts of Senator Murray’s opening statement (as prepared for delivery):

“Every day, from every corner of our country, we hear more about the devastation being caused by the opioid crisis - from doctors who are treating babies born addicted to opioids, to parents who have lost children to an overdose, to veterans in chronic pain who are struggling with addiction – unfortunately the list could go on and on.”

“In my home state of Washington, nearly 10,000 people have died of an opioid overdose since 2000. That’s 10,000 lives cut short – with countless more families and friends left suffering and picking up the pieces. And I know these heartbreaking numbers are reflective of what’s going on in states all across the country.”

“The opioid epidemic is a public health crisis as well as an emergency—and I’m very disappointed the Administration not taken any decisive action to address it.”

“What’s needed to make a real difference in the lives of countless patients and families in Washington state and across the country struggling from addiction are real, immediate resources to fight this battle on the ground.”

“Make no mistake – this epidemic IS an emergency.  Every day 175 Americans die from an opioid overdose.  Yet the administration has been shockingly silent when it comes to identifying resources to address this public health crisis of addiction here at home. “

“Last 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.”

“Let me tell you – this cost is growing more each and every day – and it certainly won’t be addressed by stunts like the president committing to donating his third quarter salary to HHS. It’s long past time for this administration to get serious about this crisis.”

Watch video of Senator Murray’s opening statement HERE.

Full text of Senator Murray’s opening statement (as prepared for delivery):

Thank you, Mr. Chairman for calling this hearing on such an urgent topic.

I am very pleased to welcome the distinguished former Congressman from Rhode Island, Patrick Kennedy, who served on the administration’s opioid Commission.

I am looking forward to your testimony, as well as hearing from our witnesses from the Department of Health and Human Services about what additional actions are needed to stem this epidemic.   

I also want to note that I am, once again, disappointed that the director of the Centers for Disease Control, Brenda Fitzgerald, was unable to join us today to share her perspective.

Since this is an Appropriations committee hearing, I will be pressing our witnesses to talk specifically about funding needs. 

Every day, from every corner of our country, we hear more about the devastation being caused by the opioid crisis - from doctors who are treating babies born addicted to opioids, to parents who have lost children to an overdose, to veterans in chronic pain who are struggling with addiction – unfortunately the list could go on and on. 

In my home state of Washington, nearly 10,000 people have died of an opioid overdose since 2000. 

That’s 10,000 lives cut short – with countless more families and friends left suffering and picking up the pieces.

And I know these heartbreaking numbers are reflective of what’s going on in states all across the country.

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

So—the opioid epidemic is a public health crisis as well as an emergency—and I’m very disappointed the Administration not taken any decisive action to address it.

What’s needed to make a real difference in the lives of countless patients and families in Washington state and across the country struggling from addiction are real, immediate resources to fight this battle on the ground.

And despite the work of the Commission and its recommendations, the Commission failed to identify any additional funding to battle the epidemic.

Make no mistake – this epidemic IS an emergency.  Every day 175 Americans die from an opioid overdose. 

Yet the administration has been shockingly silent when it comes to identifying resources to address this public health crisis of addiction here at home. 

And just to underscore how inadequate this Administration’s response to the opioid crisis has been…

Last 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.

And let me tell you – this cost is growing more each and every day – and it certainly won’t be addressed by stunts like the president committing to donating his third quarter salary to HHS.

It’s long past time for this administration to get serious about this crisis.

Now—given the current budget caps, this subcommittee simply has not been able to provide the level of funding needed to make real progress in preventing and treating opioid addiction. 

Funding in the LHHS appropriations bills has remained basically level. 

But the epidemic has not remained level, it has escalated. Overdose rates continue to soar. 

The epidemic is now being driven by synthetic drugs like Fentanyl that are 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine. 

And the most recent data suggest that more people are skipping prescription painkillers altogether and going straight to heroin as their first opioid. 

Given the scope of the crisis, emergency supplemental funding is desperately needed that will give States and communities the evidence-based tools that could turn this epidemic around.

The current situation is unacceptable. And we need more than tough talk from President Trump to address this crisis. 

Congress—and patients and families—need this Administration to be an equal partner in fighting this epidemic and unfortunately its actions thus far are simply not enough.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.