Alexander Says Opioids Bill Is Next Step In Helping End National Opioid Crisis

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Senate health committee Chairman Lamar Alexander on Wednesday chaired a hearing on the Opioid Crisis Response Act of 2018, draft legislation he and Senator Patty Murray (D-Wa.) released last week that “is the next step in helping end the national opioid crisis.” This is the committee’s seventh bipartisan hearing on the opioid crisis since October.

“In January, Sam Quinones testified before our Committee that we need a “moonshot” to solve this crisis,” Senator Alexander said. “I think it may require the effort and resources of a moonshot but I also think it will be different and harder because this is not something that can be undertaken by a single agency in Washington, D.C. – it will require all-hands on deck work and solutions from states, communities, and local partners.

“This committee has spent the last six months hearing from governors, state and local officials, doctors, families, and experts from the Food and Drug Administration, National Institutes of Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration at our six bipartisan hearings. As we have heard, this crisis touches more than just those suffering from an opioid addiction – children and grandparents and doctors, nurses, and law enforcement.

“And so, the response from the federal government must be bipartisan, urgent, and effective. Last week, Senator Murray and I released this draft legislation based on the input we have heard, as well as ideas from Senators on both sides of the aisle, to create new authorities, grants, and programs at six federal departments and agencies.

“So far in this draft, there are 29 proposals, from most members of this committee. For example, it includes legislation introduced by Senators Murray, Young, Hassan, and myself to spur development of a non-addictive painkiller by giving the National Institutes of Health additional flexibility. I see a non-addictive painkiller really as the ‘Holy Grail; of solving the opioid crisis. Developing new, non-addictive ways to treat is crucial to helping prevent people from becoming addicted opioids while ensuring those who need relief have access to it.”

You can read more about this draft legislation here.

The Senate health committee has held a series of six hearings so far this Congress to hear input on ways the federal government can be a better partner for states and communities on the front lines of the opioid crisis.

On Oct. 5, 2017, the Senate health committee held the first hearing of the series which focused on the federal response to the opioid crisis, and on Nov. 30, 2017, the committee heard from witnesses representing states, communities, and providers on what they are doing and what, if any, new authorities they need from the federal government to fight the crisis. On Jan. 9, the committee heard from author Sam Quinones, who has extensively researched and written about the opioid crisis. On Feb. 8, the committee held a hearing focused on listening to the needs of children and families affected by the opioid crisis. On Feb. 27, the committee held a hearing on the role technology and data play in responding to the crisis. On March 8, the committee heard from some of the nation’s governors about how they are coming up with innovative solutions and leading the fight against the unique problems their states face in the midst of the opioid crisis.

Alexander’s full prepared remarks are available here

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