United States Senator Lamar Alexander Monday said Governor Bill Haslam and Tennessee’s state and local leaders are providing important leadership in helping combat the opioid crisis, which is tearing Tennessee communities and families apart, and posing an enormous challenge to health care providers and law enforcement officials.
“Last year, 1,631 Tennesseans died of a drug overdose—12 percent more than the year before—and the highest rate of drug overdose deaths in recorded history in Tennessee," said Senator Alexander. "Nearly three out of four of the drug overdoses in our state are related to the opioid crisis. Earlier this month, I dropped by a meeting at the Tennessee Governor’s Residence in Nashville looking at discouraging the over prescription of opioid painkillers. Governor Haslam and Tennessee’s state and local leaders have put forward a detailed proposal of steps our state can take to help address this crisis. The antidote to the opioid crisis is strong local communities, and the federal government can be a helping hand to creating an environment in which communities themselves can address the crisis.”
Senator Alexander continued, “Congress took important steps in 2016 by passing the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act—which established new programs and encouraged those on the front lines to work together to combat substance abuse, especially opioid abuse—and providing $1 billion in new funding for states to fight the opioid crisis as a part of the 21st Century Cures Act.
“I expect that Congress will provide a significant amount of new funding for the opioid crisis this year – it’s our number one public health issue – that would be used to allow states to provide treatment and implement other strategies to curb opioid abuse. I will be holding more hearings in the spring to address this crisis, and I will continue working closely with the Trump administration and my colleagues in Congress to see what additional steps Congress should take to help states, doctors, and families address and solve this tragic problem.”
Senator Alexander – as chairman of the Senate health committee – has held a series of hearings on the opioid crisis, which has taken more Tennesseans’ lives than car accidents in recent years. The committee held the first hearing of the series on Oct. 5, which focused on the federal response to the opioid crisis, on Nov. 30, 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, and the committee held a hearing on Jan. 9, where Senator Alexander emphasized that the solution to the opioid crisis is a strong community.
Congress passed and President Obama signed into law the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act in July 2016. Senator Alexander was one of seven Senate conferees who worked with the House conferees on the final CARA conference report. In September 2017, the Trump administration announced $144 million in grants under CARA will be awarded to states, cities, health care providers, and community organizations, with $6 million going to Tennessee.
In addition to providing $1 billion in grants to states to address the opioid crisis, the 21st Century Cures Act updated substance abuse programs out of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Senator Alexander was the lead Republican Senate sponsor of Cures, which was signed into law on Dec.r 13, 2016. This past spring, the administration began issuing grants funded by Cures, including nearly $14 million for Tennessee.