Senate health committee Chairman Lamar Alexander on Thursday said, “Governors are coming up with innovative solutions and leading the fight against the unique problems their state faces in the midst of the opioid crisis.”
The committee held its sixth hearing on the opioid crisis this Congress, to hear from Governors Larry Hogan (R-Md.) and Kate Brown (D-Or.).
“This is an evolving crisis that has affected nearly every state across the country, but the specific challenges faced by Tennessee may be very different from what Oregon or Maryland faces,” Senator Alexander said.
“States are the ones who come up with the good ideas on how to tackle big problems because they’re on the frontlines, and it’s usually the federal government’s role to encourage them and cut the red tape to create an environment so that states can innovate.
“For example, Governor Hogan and Maryland have allowed all pharmacies to dispense naloxone, the drug that stops a drug overdose, and opened an Opioid Operations Command Center to coordinate the state and local governments’ response to the crisis. And Governor Brown has prioritized improving Oregon’s prescription drug monitoring program and is working with the state legislature in Oregon on a peer mentorship program for individuals struggling with addiction.
“Congress has also taken a number of steps to support states fighting the opioid crisis, including the Protecting Our Infants Act, the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, and the 21st Century Cures Act. In December, Senator Murray and I sent a letter to every governor and state insurance commissioner asking if these laws are working and how the federal government can be the best partner for states. We have heard back from 21 governors and 11 state health officials, in addition to feedback we heard at a roundtable with governors Senator Murray and I held last week.
“For example, Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam suggested additional funding to encourage states to share data in their Prescription Drug Monitoring Systems – something we talked about at our hearing last week. I think this is one of the most promising areas where the federal government can be helpful to states.”
On Oct. 5, 2017, the 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 January 9, 2018, 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 to look the effects the opioid crisis has on children and families. On Feb. 27, the committee held a hearing on the role technology and data play in responding to the crisis.
Senator Alexander concluded Thursday’s hearing saying, “This committee hopes to approve that piece of legislation, as well as others by the end of the month, so that we can recommend those bills to the full Senate to vote on. So it is helpful to have the input from the governors here today, as well as the written responses from other governors and state health officials.”
Senator Alexander’s full prepared remarks are available here.