PATERSON, N.J. – U.S. Senators Bob Menendez, a senior member of the Senate Finance Committee that sets national health policy, today joined Sen. Cory Booker and Congressman Bill Pascrell, Jr. at St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center in Paterson to discuss bipartisan, bicameral legislation the lawmakers introduced to help boost hospitals’ resources in the fight against opioid addiction.

“The ALTO program here at St. Joe’s is at the forefront of innovative thinking and new approaches to treating pain—to fighting opioid addiction,” said Sen. Menendez. “This creative thinking and willingness to approach health care delivery in new ways is critical to moving our health care system forward, tackling the scourge of addiction, and saving lives. We want to see every hospital and provider across New Jersey and across this nation follow St. Joe’s lead, and our bill provides the necessary federal resources to help make it possible.”


The Alternatives to Opioids (ALTO) in the Emergency Department Act 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. Language from the bill is included in a legislative package scheduled for committee markup in the Senate this Tuesday.

Sens. Menendez and Booker and Rep. Pascrell were joined by health professionals, advocates, and individuals impacted by the opioid epidemic at a news conference outside the emergency department.

The lawmakers convened a statewide summit in 2016 at St. Joe’s—which had just launched its ALTO program—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.