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In hearing, Senator Murray admonishes Trump Administration for a lackluster plan to address the opioid epidemic and for working to undermine access to treatment for substance use disorders

As White House efforts fall short, Senator Murray calls on Congress to continue its work and build on recent bipartisan progress

Senator Murray has met with patients, medical professionals, & community leaders throughout WA to learn more about local efforts to combat opioid misuse—MORE HERE

Senator Murray has worked with members across the aisle to pass two major bills in response to the opioid epidemic, and provide $2.6 billion in new funding to address the crisis

Senator Murray: “Earlier this month, the Administration released its first ever National Drug Control Strategy. It contains nothing new. It identifies no funding needs. It is 20 pages long, and easily summarized in two words—not enough.”

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

Washington, D.C. – Today, at a hearing held by the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (LHHS), ranking member U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) delivered opening remarks at the subcommittee’s hearing on the opioid epidemic. In her statement, Senator Murray condemned the Trump Administration’s approach to the crisis, noting its recently released strategy is not enough, and that the Administration has actually undermined people’s ability to access treatment for substance use disorders through its efforts to sabotage health care for people across the country. She emphasized the need for continued bipartisan progress in Congress to build on last year’s major legislative efforts, including its passage of $2.6 billion in new resources to combat opioid use disorder. Witnesses at the hearing—including  Dr. Charissa Fotinos, Deputy Chief Medical Officer Washington State Health Care Authority—discussed the importance of Medicaid and other federal resources in handling the epidemic and addressing treatment gaps in underserved communities.

Senator Murray, who is also the top Democrat on the Senate health committee, has long worked to help stem the tide of the opioid epidemic in communities in Washington state and throughout the nation, meeting with several patients, medical experts, and local leaders in her home state to learn more about the impact of opioid misuse on families and communities, and working to successfully pass bipartisan legislation in 2018 to strengthen the federal response to the growing opioid crisis.

Key excerpts from Senator Murray’s remarks:

“Since 1999, almost 400,000 people have died from an overdose involving opioids, from prescription painkillers, to illicit opioids such as heroin, to synthetic opioids such as fentanyl.  Approximately 130 people in this country die every day from an opioid overdose. And the White House’s own Council of Economic Advisors estimated the economic cost to our country of the opioid crisis is over $500 billion dollars each year. This doesn’t begin to capture the emotional devastation caused by the opioid crisis—from health providers who are treating babies born addicted to opioids, to more kids placed in foster care, to parents who have lost children to an overdose—and some even now raising their children’s children as a result—to veterans in chronic pain who are struggling with addiction. Unfortunately the list goes on and on.”

“Earlier this month the Administration released its first ever National Drug Control Strategy. It contains nothing new. It identifies no funding needs. It is 20 pages long, and easily summarized in two words—not enough.”

“Despite the Administration’s inaction, Congress has taken steps to address the epidemic. With bipartisan support, Congress has passed two major pieces of legislation through the HELP Committee to deal with the epidemic—and this subcommittee has provided an increase of $2.6 billion in new resources to combat opioid abuse, which includes $1.5 billion in block grants to States through the State Opioid Response program.”

“Medicaid is by far the nation’s largest payer for behavioral health services, including services for people with substance use disorders. Together, the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid expansion have expanded access to treatment for millions of families, providing a critical lifeline for people with substance use disorders. While the Trump Administration claims to be fighting the epidemic, the reality is that it’s done everything in its power to undermine access to treatment.”

Video of Senator Murray’s full remarks available HERE.

Full text below of Senator Murray’s remarks:

“Thank you, Mr. Chairman for calling this hearing on the opioid epidemic which continues to be a public health crisis. 

“I am very pleased to welcome Dr. Charissa Fotinos, the deputy medical director of the Washington State Health Care Authority. Welcome, Dr. Fotinos, it’s great to have you here.

“I am looking forward to your testimony, as well as hearing from our other State witnesses about how they’re using Federal resources to make a real difference in the lives of patients and families struggling with addiction, and what additional actions are needed to stem this epidemic.  

“Since 1999, almost 400,000 people have died from an overdose involving opioids, from prescription painkillers, to illicit opioids such as heroin, to synthetic opioids such as fentanyl. 

“Approximately 130 people in this country die every day from an opioid overdose.

“And the White House’s own Council of Economic Advisors estimated the economic cost to our country of the opioid crisis is over $500 billion dollars each year. 

“This doesn’t begin to capture the emotional devastation caused by the opioid crisis—from health providers who are treating babies born addicted to opioids, to more kids placed in foster care, to parents who have lost children to an overdose—and some even now raising their children’s children as a result—to veterans in chronic pain who are struggling with addiction.

“Unfortunately the list goes on and on. 

“Yet the Trump Administration has been shockingly silent when it comes to addressing this crisis of addiction here at home. 

“Earlier this month the Administration released its first ever National Drug Control Strategy. It contains nothing new. It identifies no funding needs. It is 20 pages long, and easily summarized in two words—not enough.

“But despite the Administration’s inaction, Congress has taken steps to address the epidemic. With bipartisan support, Congress has passed two major pieces of legislation through the HELP Committee to deal with the epidemic. 

“And this subcommittee has provided an increase of $2.6 billion in new resources to combat opioid abuse, which includes $1.5 billion in block grants to States through the State Opioid Response program.

“But we know this barely addresses the scale of the problem.

“Medicaid is by far the nation’s largest payer for behavioral health services, including services for people with substance use disorders.

“Together, the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid expansion have expanded access to treatment for millions of families, providing a critical lifeline for people with substance use disorders.

“While the Trump Administration claims to be fighting the epidemic, the reality is that it’s done everything in its power to undermine access to treatment, including taking Medicaid coverage away from people who can’t meet bureaucratic hurdles to prove they’ve reached a minimum number of working hours, causing tens of thousands of people to lose coverage and supporting health care repeal efforts that would cause millions of people to lose health coverage, and make coverage worse or less affordable for millions more with pre-existing conditions.

“I hope to hear from some of our witnesses today about how they’re using Medicaid expansion and other Federal resources to address the epidemic.

“I also hope we will hear from our witnesses about how to address areas where there are treatment gaps, such as in rural areas and among Native American populations. 

“There is so much more that needs to be done. So I hope as we listen to our witnesses, we also continue listening to each other and looking for additional opportunities to address this crisis in a bipartisan way.

“Thank you, Mr. Chairman.