WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), a senior member of the Senate Finance Committee that sets national health policy, today applauded Senate passage of the Opioid Crisis Response Act (H.R. 6) of 2018 which includes several measures authored by the senator and a provision authored with Senator Cory Booker.
“Opioid abuse does not discriminate. It destroys lives and families from all walks of life, impacting our friends, neighbors and loved ones,” said Sen. Menendez. “I’m proud this comprehensive approach to battling the opioid epidemic includes several of my priority initiatives to help individuals and families struggling with addiction. It provides states with greater flexibility to broaden treatment options and supports family-focused treatment programs to keep children out of foster care while a parent gains the tools necessary to succeed in recovery. And Senator Booker and I are incredibly pleased this bill builds upon St. Joe’s innovative approach in finding pain management alternatives that are dramatically reducing the use of opioids in their emergency rooms. We believe their successful approach can be a model for the rest of the nation.”
The Opioid Crisis Response Act of 2018 includes the provisions in the following Menendez-authored legislation:
Improving Recovery and Reunifying Families Act
- Helps reunify families by reducing the time kids spend in foster care while their parents get treatment. This bill embraces a “recovery coach model” and creates a national pilot reunification program where caseworkers assist parents throughout the recovery process. It is based on an Illinois recovery program that has been shown to reduce the length of time children spend in foster care.
- New Jersey has the ability to leverage its experience with peer coaches, home visiting and support services programs to help parents with substance use disorder manage their recovery and keep families intact.
Supporting Family Focused Residential Treatment Act
- Allows children to remain with their family while their parents seek treatment in residential treatment facilities so children don’t have to go into foster care. States like New Jersey will be able to use Medicaid and Federal Foster Care Program (Title IV-E) funding to do this.
The Building Capacity for Family-Focused Residential Treatment Act
- Provides $20 million for eligible states, counties, local child welfare agencies, treatment service providers and private non-profit organizations to offer evidence-based and family-focused residential treatment and prevention programs so children can reside with their parents or guardians who are receiving treatment.
Securing Flexibility to Treat Substance Use Disorders Act
- Allows New Jersey to fund inpatient psychiatric care at certain facilities for the first time.
- Allows states to fund up to 15 days of inpatient treatment services and inpatient psychiatric care for patients suffering from substance use disorders.
- The bill provides an exception to a rule under current law that blocks Medicaid from paying for this kind of treatment if a facility has more than 16 beds. New Jersey currently has a waiver to do this already to treat substance use disorders, but this bill would also allow Medicaid dollars to be used for inpatient psychiatric care.
Opioid Addiction Treatment Programs Enhancement Act (OATPEA)
- Medicaid already collects a significant amount of data, but has yet to use it to help states develop policies. This bill requires an annual report from CMS with data on opioid issues in Medicaid that would be available to third party researchers.
Alternatives to Opioids in the Emergency Department Act (ALTO) – introduced with Senator Booker
- Supports hospitals and emergency departments in identifying and implementing best practices for alternatives to the use of opioids. It would establish a national demonstration program, based on the successful program implemented at St. Joseph’s Medical Center in 2016, to test alternative pain management protocols to limit the use of opioids in hospital emergency departments nationwide. In just two years since implementing ALTO, St. Joe’s has successfully reduced opioid prescriptions in their emergency room by 82%.
The bill also includes the following important measures supported by Sen. Menendez:
Drug-Free Communities Program
- The bill authorizes the $99 million for the Drug-Free Communities (DFC) Program. The program provides competitive matching grants to community-based coalitions that prevent youth substance abuse.
- The drug court system – which requires nonviolent, drug-addicted offenders to remain in treatment and undergo random drug testing while under intensive judicial supervision – has been cited as the nation’s most fiscally responsible method for dealing with substance-abusing offenders. The bill authorizes $75 million for each of the fiscal years 2018-2022 for the Drug Court Program which provides grants to nonprofit organizations for training and technical assistance to drug courts. The GAO research on drug courts found that their use saves $6,000 per participant and reduces re-arrest rates by up to 58%.
- The bill reauthorizes the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) program for $280 million for FY2018-2022. HIDTA – which is administered through the Office of National Drug Control Policy – provides assistance to Federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies operating in areas determined to be critical drug-trafficking regions of the United States. There are currently 28 HIDTAs, which include approximately 18 percent of all counties in the United States and 66 percent of the U.S. population. New Jersey HIDTA Counties include: Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, Ocean, Passaic, Union, and Camden.
Drug Overdose Response Strategy:
- Amends the Office of National Drug Control Policy Reauthorization Act of 1998 to use funds to implement a drug overdose response strategy in high intensity drug trafficking areas (HIDTA) on a nationwide basis. The funds will: coordinate multi-disciplinary efforts to prevent, reduce, and respond to drug overdoses; increase data sharing among public safety and public health officials; and enable collaborative deployment of prevention, intervention, and enforcement resources.
COPS: Protecting Law Enforcement from Exposure, COPS Anti-Meth Program, and COPS Anti-Heroin Task Force Program
- The bill authorizes $10 million in competitive grants for HIDTA so law enforcement can purchase portable fentanyl testing equipment, training for law enforcement, and protective equipment. The bill authorizes $1 million per FY for the COPS Anti-Methamphetamine Program (CAMP), which provides grants to state law enforcement agencies in states with high seizures of chemicals, finished methamphetamine, laboratories, and laboratory dump seizures in order to locate and investigate illicit activities and meth traffickers. Additionally, the bill authorizes funding for the COPS Anti-Heroin Task Force Program (AHTF), which provides grants to state law enforcement agency task forces to locate or investigate illicit activities related to the distribution of heroin or the unlawful distribution of prescription opioids. Of note, the New Jersey Department of Law and Public Safety received $951,134 for FY2017, $1,279,255 for FY2016, and $103,227 for FY2015 under the COPS Anti-Heroin program.
Every Prescription Conveyed Securely
- This provision requires providers in Part D to submit electronic prescriptions in order to better track opioid use and prevent diversion.
- The bill expands access to medication-assisted treatment by increasing the number of individuals qualified physicians can treat.
First Responder Opioid Overdose Treatment Training
- The bill expands a grant program under the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act to train, equip and allow first responders to administer naloxone to treat an opioid overdose.
In 2016, 2,221 New Jerseyans died in drug overdose deaths. In the first six months of this year, another 1,268 people lost their lives due to drug overdoses.