by Wyn Staheli, Director of Research
March 16th, 2016
Some may be surprised to learn that last year overdoses from heroin, prescription drugs, and opioid pain relievers surpassed car accidents as the leading cause of injury-related death in America, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
This problem is placing a strain on an already overburdened healthcare system. New legislation aims to tackle this growing problem. The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), also known as S. 524 and H.R. 953, is making its way through the system.
According to a press release by the Whitehouse, the legislation would:
Expand the availability of naloxone — which can counter the effects of a heroin or opioid overdose — to law enforcement agencies and other first responders
Improve prescription drug monitoring programs to help states monitor and track prescription drug diversion “and to help at-risk individuals access services,” because inefficiencies and loopholes in the current programs allow many individuals to game the system and obtain more drugs than they should
Shift resources towards identifying and treating incarcerated people who are suffering from addiction, rather than just punishing them OR adjudicating punishment as is often the case currently
Prohibit the Department of Education from including questions about the conviction of an applicant for the possession or sale of illegal drugs on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) financial aid form
The Senate version (S. 524) has passed the Senate in a nearly unanimous vote. However, the House of Representatives version (H.R. 953) was assigned to a congressional committee in February. A final bill must be passed by both the House and Senate in identical form and then be signed by the President to become law.
A press release by the National Council for Behavioral Health expressed support and said they applaud the Senate’s approval of CARA. "CARA authorizes $600 million for grants to address the national prescription, opioid and heroin addiction epidemics. Authorized funds could be used for treatment and recovery services, alternatives to prison for nonviolent offenders, law enforcement initiatives and programs to prevent overdose deaths and improper prescriptions."
Please contact your Congressional leaders and express support for this important piece of legislation.