Senate Dems want $45B to address opioid epidemic

Senate Dems want $45B to address opioid epidemic
© Tomas Nevesely/iStock/Thinkstock Photos

Senate Democrats introduced a bill on Wednesday to invest $45 billion to fight the opioid epidemic, just a day before President Trump is slated to announce how his administration will combat the crisis.

“The Trump administration’s plan to address the opioid epidemic has been little more than empty words and broken promises,” Sen. Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyBipartisan Senate bill would penalize illegal robocalls Hillicon Valley: Russian-linked hackers may have impersonated US officials | Trump signs DHS cyber bill | Prosecutors inadvertently reveal charges against Assange | Accenture workers protest border enforcement work | App mines crypto for bail bonds Senators push bipartisan bill to crack down on robocalls MORE (D-Mass.) said in a press release. “What we need to fight this scourge is continued and reliable long-term investments in prevention, treatment, recovery and monitoring.”

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Last week, Trump said he would officially declare the opioid epidemic a national emergency, two months after he said his administration was drafting the paperwork to do so. The White House is holding an opioid event on Thursday, suggesting that is when the declaration could be made.

Some advocates and lawmakers have said any such declaration needs to come with significant federal funding to be effective, foreshadowing a possible funding fight in Congress. A total of fourteen Democrats, along with Sen. Angus KingAngus Stanley KingDems slam Trump’s energy regulator nominee GOP nerves on edge after Sinema takes lead over McSally Collusion judgment looms for key Senate panel MORE (I-Maine), introduced the legislation.

Markey noted that “Republicans have already agreed to this funding language in other recent health debates, and I hope they will once again agree to work with us to get this passed.”

The $45 billion figure is similar to the amount of funding included in the Senate’s ObamaCare repeal-and-replace bill.

During the ObamaCare repeal-and-replace debate, Republican leadership initially included $2 billion to fight the opioid epidemic in its bill.

But another $45 billion was eventually added. Sens. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanThe case for bipartisan solutions GOP lawmakers condemn attempted attacks on Democrats Trump takes steps to punish Saudi Arabia MORE (R-Ohio) and Shelley Moore CapitoShelley Wellons Moore CapitoErnst elected to Senate GOP leadership Court rules against Trump administration on gillnet ban rollback The Hill's Morning Report — Presented by PhRMA — Dem path to a Senate majority narrows MORE (R-W.Va.) — both of whom come from states hit hard by the epidemic — pushed for more money. The legislation would have ended Medicaid expansion, which is a large payer of behavioral health services, and it was thought that the billions of dollars could have helped, in part, to fill the gap.

Last year, Congress, with large bipartisan support, passed the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, which authorized grants to help states curb the epidemic of prescription painkillers and heroin. The 21st Century Cures bill gave a total of $1 billion over two years to address the epidemic.