Baltimore Democrat Rep. Elijah Cummings introduced legislation Wednesday to provide $100 billion in new funding to tackle the nation’s opioid epidemic and the staggering number of overdose deaths.
Federal figures show that hundreds of thousands of people have fatally overdosed this decade on opioids including prescription painkillers and illicit drugs such as heroin and the more powerful fentanyl. Cummings said the response has been woefully insufficient.
“Families across this nation — in red states, blue states, and purple states, in big cities, suburbs, and rural areas — are struggling with the devastating consequences of this generational crisis that claims 192 lives every single day,” said Cummings, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, in a statement. “I am proud to introduce the CARE Act with Senator [Elizabeth] Warren to finally get to the heart of this problem by providing stable and sustained funding for states and local communities to expand access to evidence-based treatment.”
A version of the legislation, called the Comprehensive Addiction Resources Emergency Act was introduced last year but the so-called CARE Act failed to pass. It would provide $10 billion a year for 10 years, a lofty price tag that is likely to make this year’s push just as tough.
The measure includes $4 billion in direct aid for states through competitive grants; $2.7 billion more for the hardest hit counties and cities; $1.7 billion for public health surveillance, research and training for health professionals; $1.7 billion to expand and innovate service delivery; and $500 million to expand access to the overdose reversal drug naloxone.
Specifically, the bill could bring more than $109 million to Maryland. The latest data from the state Department of Health shows there were 1,848 overdose deaths in the first nine months of 2018, with 1,648 related to opioids.
Cummings and Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat and presidential candidate, proposed paying the tab by rolling back recent tax cuts or a new tax, or through other means.
Addressing the opioid crisis has become a bipartisan endeavor. President Donald Trump declared the overdoses a public health emergency in 2017 and supported rules changes and some funding. But Democrats such as Cummings contend the Trump administration’s response has not been enough to stem addiction and deaths. Cummings plans a hearing on the administration’s efforts on Thursday.
The CARE act has 88 co-sponsors in the House, all Democrats, and endorsement from 200 groups, including the American Medical Association, the American Society of Addiction Medicine, the AFL-CIO, the National Association of Counties, the American Public Health Association and the Baltimore City Health Department.