Bipartisan Senate Bill Seeks Millions for Addiction Treatment

By Shawn Dwyer 09/19/14

Even if passed, the $80 million legislation is almost assured to be doomed by the Republican-led House.

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Sen. Whitehouse. Wiki Commons

A rare bipartisan effort in the U.S. Senate is trying to make $80 million available to states and local governments to expand drug treatment, prevention, and recovery.

Introduced by U.S. Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-Rhode Island) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio), the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2014 would allocate resources to states and municipalities that adopt certain proven methodologies to fight addiction. Among those strategies would be evidence-based opioid and heroin treatment and intervention, an increase in prevention efforts that would include making naloxone more widely available to law enforcement and other first-responders, and a stronger monitoring system for painkiller prescriptions.

“The bill represents a significant step forward in how we understand and address addiction,”said Patrick Kennedy, a former congressman from Rhode Island who himself suffered from drug and alcohol addiction. “The bottom line is that addiction and other mental illnesses are treatable, and recovery is real.”

Writing an op-ed in The Hill, Whitehouse stressed the need for the legislation in light of how 22.7 million Americans need treatment, but only 2.5 million get help, according to statistics from the Office of National Drug Control Policy. Whitehouse also referenced how the heroin epidemic has plagued his own state of Rhode Island, where more than 100 people have died from drug overdoses so far in 2014.

"We believe this will make a real difference both for victims of addiction and for American communities," Whitehouse wrote. "Getting clean and staying clean enables former addicts to contribute to our economy and our society in ways they might not otherwise; and reducing drug abuse can help us all feel safer on our streets, behind the wheel and in our homes. Those are goals we can all support."

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Shawn Dwyer is a writer, editor and content producer living in Los Angeles. You can find him on Linkedin.