Blumenthal and Murphy back $45 billion bill to combat opioid crisis

Connecticut’s U.S. senators, both Democrats, have called on Republicans in Congress to support a $45 billion bill that they say takes “real action” to combat the opioid crisis confronting the nation.

“This measure means real action, not more empty Trump rhetoric in the fight against substance use disorder — a $45 billion down payment for treatment and prevention,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal said in a statement released on Monday, Oct. 30.

“The Trump announcement has no new money and no new leadership at key agencies like DEA and HHS,” he said of the Drug Enforcement Administration of Health and Human Services. “It relies on the discredited mantra of ‘just say no,’ instead of proven methods of counseling and evidence-based treatments. A 90-day order is no substitute for a declaration of public health emergency. Our measure should win bipartisan support, just as similar legislative steps in the past have brought us together against this public health crisis and growing epidemic that spares no community.”

“The opioid epidemic is getting worse, and Congress hasn’t done enough to try and stop it. We’ve seen only lip service so far from the Trump administration — calling it a public health emergency but then championing billions of dollars in cuts to Medicaid that would gut life-saving substance abuse programs that Connecticut families rely on,” said Sen. Chris Murphy. “The Combating the Opioid Epidemic Act will inject seriously-needed dollars into stopping this crisis from impacting more Connecticut families.”

Connecticut’s senators were joined by 17 other senators in introducing the act. The legislation would invest the same amount of dollars proposed by Senate Republicans earlier this year, for prevention, detection, surveillance and treatment of opioid addiction, they said.

One of other senators is Sen. Edward J. Markey, (D-Mass.), who introduced the legislation with Bob Casey (D-Penn.) Markey spoke after last Thursday’s announcement by President Trump declaring the opioid crisis a public health emergency. Markey criticized the president for not committing emergency funds to fight the epidemic, saying Trump “offered the country a Band-Aid when we need a tourniquet,” according to

Trump administration officials have argued that the national emergency designation would have been too broad, an undue burden on the Disaster Relief Fund, and not the right call for a lengthy crisis, reported. The national emergency designation is usually used after major national disasters.

Instead, the president’s order opts to expand access to telemedicine in rural areas, instruct agencies to curb bureaucratic delays for dispensing grant money and shift some federal grants towards combating the crisis, according to national news reports.

A dozen groups have endorsed the senators’ legislation, including the American Psychiatric Association, the American Society of Addiction Medicine, the Coalition to Stop Opioid Overdose, the National Association of County and City Health Officials, the National Association of Social Workers and the National Safety Council.