Menendez, Heller, Isakson Introduce the Opioid Addiction Action Plan Act

Menendez, Heller, Isakson Introduce the Opioid Addiction Action Plan Act


WASHINGTON - U.S. Senators Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Dean Heller (R-Nev.) and Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) today introduced the Opioid Addiction Action Plan Act, bipartisan legislation that requires the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to develop a plan by January 1, 2019 to prevent opioid addiction and increase access to medication-assisted treatment.

“The opioid crisis impacts every community in our nation. It affects people from every walk of life, and the problem continues to grow,” said Sen. Menendez. “We need to change the way Medicare and Medicaid approach pain management and addiction treatment. By developing an Opioid Addiction Action Plan that focuses on improving access to substance abuse treatment and providing non-opioid pain management solutions, we can turn the tide of the opioid crisis.”

“In 2016, more than 600 people died in the state of Nevada as a result of drug overdose. Too many American families have been impacted by the opioid epidemic, which has rocked our communities in Nevada and around the country. That’s why I’m proud to introduce bipartisan, bicameral legislation with Senators Bob Menendez and Johnny Isakson to help our friends, family members, and loved ones battling addiction,” said Sen. Heller. “I thank Congressman Kinzinger for his leadership in the House on this bill, and look forward to working with my colleagues to pass the Opioid Addiction Action Plan Act.” 

Under the proposal, the secretary of HHS will submit a report to Congress involving recommendations on data collection and improvements to Medicare and Medicaid coverage and reimbursement of medication-assisted treatment. HHS will also consider ways to improve provider education on treatments for chronic pain and addiction, and methods to expand access to treatment for rural and medically-underserved communities.

The legislation also directs HHS to identify FDA-approved technologies that are non-opioid treatments for acute and chronic pain management, technologies that monitor withdrawal and prevent overdose, and technologies that treat substance use disorder and opioid use disorder.

Congressman Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) and Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke (D-NY) earlier this week introduced H.R. 5590, companion legislation in U.S. House of Representatives.

Earlier this week, the Opioid Crisis Response Act of 2018 passed out of the Senate HELP committee that included provisions written by Sens. Menendez and Cory Booker. The provisions will support hospitals and emergency departments in identifying and implementing best practices for alternatives to the use of opioids.

On Monday, Sens. Menendez and Booker, joined Congressman Bill Pascrell, Jr. at St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center in Paterson where they discussed bipartisan, bicameral legislation that the lawmakers introduced to help boost hospitals’ resources in the fight against opioid addiction, known as The Alternatives to Opioids (ALTO) in the Emergency Department Act.

The ALTO program launched at St. Joe’s in 2016. When the program launched, the lawmakers convened a statewide summit at St. Joe’s to explore solutions to the heroin and opioid addiction epidemic gripping New Jersey and the nation. In just two years since implementing ALTO, St. Joe’s has successfully reduced opioid prescriptions in their emergency room by 82%.

Last month, Sen. Menendez toured a local recovery center in Elizabeth, where he met with experts and individuals in recovery, and announced a budget agreement he supported that provided an additional $6 billion to fund the national fight against the opioid crisis.  The senator is also an original cosponsor of the Combating the Opioid Epidemic Act, which would authorize $45 billion over ten years for opioid abuse treatment, prevention, detection, and surveillance programs.

Sen. Menendez cosponsored the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), signed into law in 2016, which provides resources to states to expand disposal sites for unwanted prescription drugs and to develop better monitoring systems for prescription drug use, makes naloxone more widely available to law enforcement agencies and other first responders to help prevent overdoses and save lives, creates an evidence-based opioid and heroin treatment and intervention program, and sets national treatment standards.

The senator has successfully pushed back Republican efforts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act and the Medicaid expansion, which gives thousands of New Jerseyans access to vital mental health and substance abuse services. Sen. Menendez visited a community health center in Newark, where he met recovering addicts who credited Medicaid with saving their lives.

Last May, Sen. Menendez helped lead a group of 28 senators in calling for increased federal funding to help combat the opioid and illicit drug abuse epidemic.

Sen. Menendez pressed U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell during a Senate Finance Committee hearing in February 2016 to expand access to medication assisted treatment options, which led HHS a month later to move to double the current patient limit for qualified physicians who prescribe buprenorphine to treat opioid use disorders.

Sens. Menendez and Booker hosted a 2016 forum on the opioid epidemic with the U.S. Surgeon General local doctors, treatment providers, and advocates. They partnered with local law enforcement to promote National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day and encouraged New Jerseyans to discard all unwanted narcotic pain killers and other prescription drugs at participating local police stations and county prosecutor’s offices. Sen. Menendez held another strategy session in the fall of 2015 to discuss drug treatment options and programs, access to medications, and explore ways the federal government can help.