Sen. Elizabeth Warren renews push to fight substance use disorder epidemic ‘head on’ with $125B bill to expand treatment, mental health support across US

Senator Elizabeth Warren is leading a renewed campaign to combat the ongoing pandemic that has seen more than 100,000 people die from drug overdoses nationwide between May 2020 and May 2021 — just as local, state and federal agencies and health systems have struggled to confront the COVID-19 pandemic and a growing need to treat tens of millions. of Americans in crises of mental health and substance abuse.

On Thursday, Warren and Representative Carolyn Maloney reintroduced the Comprehensive Addiction Resources Emergency (CARE), which Warren and the late Representative Elijah Cummings first introduced to Congress in 2018.

Warren’s team described the MassLive initiative as the most ambitious of its kind: a national effort to expand access to treatment and recovery, mental health support, early intervention and harm reduction backed by $125 billion in funding over the next decade for state, state and local. Tribal governments and community organizations are on the front lines of the epidemic.

Similar to a bipartisan bill honoring student Ryan White in 1990 — which boosted domestic funding to help the American medical system combat the rapid rise in HIV/AIDS deaths — the legislation comes after a year in which 40 million people have suffered across the United States. Of substance use disorder, however, only 6.5% had access to specialized treatment, according to survey data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tracked about 275 drug overdose deaths per day in 2020 — nearly a 70% increase from the previous year.

“For far too long, state and local leaders, health officials, and first responders in Massachusetts and across the country have had to bear the brunt of the substance use disorder crisis,” Warren said. “It is time for the federal government to tackle this crisis head-on by enacting comprehensive legislation to make sure that everyone who needs treatment for substance use disorder is able to get it — whether they live in the largest cities, in rural or suburban areas, in tribal lands or anywhere else in the United States.”

The bill, which could bring more than $130 million annually to Massachusetts, has already won support from about 100 Democratic members of the House and Senate, dozens of Massachusetts mayors and state legislators, and more than 175 national and local treatment, health and advocacy groups, including These include the American Medical Association, the National Safety Council, and the Massachusetts Association for Addiction Recovery.

Senator Ed Markey, one of the many original sponsors, said the burden of opioid use disorder has upended “many lives, many families” across the state and country.

“We must make these important investments in public health and harm reduction efforts that will save lives and help heal and hope for those in need,” he added.

The bill calls for $4.6 billion annually to be made available to states, territories and tribal governments, divided between $2.3 billion for states with the highest levels of overdose and $1.84 billion in competitive grants for state and local programs.

Another $3.3 billion will go directly to cities and counties for distribution to clinics, nonprofits and public health systems each year, with $1.75 billion for those suffering from overdoses and $1.22 billion available through grants. Warren’s office said about $2 billion annually would support public health surveillance, biomedical research, and improved training in substance use disorders, with half going to the National Institutes of Health and the other half between the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and regional tribal epidemiology centers.

The bill also includes $1.6 billion annually to support service, treatment, recovery, and harm reduction programs that reduce negative consequences of drug use, and to expand treatment capacity and help workers retain or obtain a job despite their risk of substance use disorders. Another $1 billion would expand access to overdose-reversing drugs like naloxone across the country, giving states more ability to distribute life-saving drugs to first responders, public health departments and the public.

CARE Act also calls for investments of approximately $1 billion annually directly to tribal governments, indigenous health organizations, universities, and nonprofit organizations.

If passed in Congress and signed by President Joe Biden, the law would send about $132.3 million to Massachusetts annually over 10 years, including $56.6 million in state grants and $75.7 million distributed among counties. Massachusetts clinics and nonprofit organizations can benefit from a share of $1.5 billion in annual grants available nationwide under CARE Act, and first responders and public health departments can get expanded access to discounted naloxone. For a more in-depth look at potential funding for Massachusetts, read here.

For a more detailed look at CARE law in general, read here.

The administration of Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker and state lawmakers in recent years has invested heavily to tackle drug overdose deaths, which rose 31% nationwide but only in single digits in Massachusetts between March 2020 and March 2021, according to CDC data. .

But the state Department of Public Health noted earlier this year that more than 1,000 people died from opioid-related drug overdoses in the first six months of 2021 — a smaller increase than most other states but still a 5% bump compared to In the same period last year. .

Springfield Mayor Dominic Sarno praised Warren’s leadership and advocacy on the issue, saying the funding “will go a long way in helping to save lives and provide people with the treatment, support, and communication they need.”

“In order for local municipalities and all our local, state and regional public and private partners to work together effectively to address, prevent, educate and treat substance abuse, particularly the opioid crisis exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, we need this much-needed federal funding and initiative. .

Dave McMahon, co-executive director of the Dismas House of Massachusetts, said the “dual crises of mental health and substance abuse have worsened in recent years” for people the organization serves, including homeless and ex-offenders in Greater Worcester and downtown. Massachusetts.

“Deploying new resources for substance abuse, peer support, recovery support, and housing will help community agencies struggling to combat overdose, and fight for a better quality of life for our hardest-hit neighborhoods,” McMahon said.

Northampton Mayor Nicole LaChapelle said in a statement that the bill would provide funding “directly to municipalities that can then address very specific local challenges to help people with disabilities and often shamed by their circumstances.” This bill allows cities to literally rebuild trust on Main Street with Respect and common dignity in a time of lack of faith.”

Senator Joe Comerford said she was “overjoyed to hear Warren and Maloney re-introduce the bill, which was not voted on in 2018.

“Our Commonwealth continues to suffer the ravages of the opioid crisis, and this critical legislation will provide Western Massachusetts with the resources to combat the opioid epidemic and support components in recovery,” she said.

Senator Julian Sear, co-chair of the Joint Committee on Mental Health, Substance Use and Recovery said. “CARE’s Law will provide critical resources to every corner of our nation through an evidence-based model that will save lives.”

Related content:

  • ‘Pandemic exacerbated opioid crisis’: Massachusetts saw 1,613 opioid deaths in first nine months of 2021
  • Crisis: More than 1,000 people died in Massachusetts from opioid overdose in first six months of 2021, says DPH

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