Senator Hatch and Speaker Ryan Sign Bill to Combat Opioid Abuse

Senate President Pro Tempore Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., signed critical legislation to address the prescription painkiller and heroin abuse epidemic sweeping the country.

The bill, the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, recently passed in the House and Senate, and included several provisions with a direct impact on Utah championed by Senator Hatch.

During a meeting last week where House and Senate negotiators worked on the bill, Senator Hatch described the effect opioid addiction has had on Utah. He said, “This is an epidemic that is devastating individuals, families, and communities across the country. My home state of Utah has been particularly hard hit. In 2014 alone, 289 Utahns died due to opioid abuse, which was more than half of all drug-overdose related deaths in the state for that year.”

Among the provisions championed by Senator Hatch are important measures that allow Medicare Part D prescription drug plans to work with at-risk beneficiaries to identify only one physician to prescribe, and one pharmacy to fill, all of a patient’s opioid prescriptions. This is a commonsense step that will improve patient care and reduce abuse, while also increasing the likelihood that beneficiaries with a problem will get the help they need. Additionally, the conference report contains significant provisions to improve access to medication-assisted treatment to help patients succeed in their battle against substance use disorders. 

Senator Hatch also was influential in including provisions that encourage the National Institutes of Health to intensify fundamental, translational, and clinical research on the understanding of pain. This kind of research will lead to alternatives to opioids for effective pain treatment. Furthermore, Senator Hatch won inclusion of provisions to protect infants born to mothers suffering from opioid addiction. A recent Utah Health Status Update indicated that, between 2009 and 2012, more than 100 babies each year tested positive for illicit drugs at birth. Once enacted, this legislation will strengthen the existing plan of safe care for infants affected by substance abuse or withdrawal symptoms, as well as Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. 

To view a copy of the Joint Explanatory Statement of the conference committee, click here

Key Utahns Praise Hatch’s Efforts

President Brandon Jones and President-Elect Kim McFarlane, Utah Academy of Physician Assistants: 

The Utah Academy of PAs applauds Sen Hatch and his colleagues for passing this legislation, which will expand access to critically important medication-assisted treatment options for patients struggling with addiction and their families, especially those in medically underserved communities in rural states like Utah. Sen. Hatch has been a leader in the fight to end opioid addiction since the Drug Addiction Treatment Act of 2000 was passed nearly 2 decades ago, and his leadership today will allow PAs to be better utilized in the treatment of patients struggling with opioid addiction. The Utah Academy is grateful for his long-time support of PAs and the patients we serve in communities across our state.

Jan Favero Chambers, President and Founder, National Fibromyalgia & Chronic Pain Association

The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2016 has authorization for significant improvement in pain management and addiction to heroin and prescription opioids in Utah. Expansion of research, education, and prevention are the best ways forward to help Utahns. It is unacceptable for Utah to be ranked 5th in the nation for drug poisoning deaths; at the same time, there is a moral imperative to treat the 1 in 9 Utahns with life-altering, chronic pain conditions. Utah healthcare and elected leaders can rise to meet the challenges together and become the nation’s leader in effective,non-opioid complementary pain treatments and addiction recovery.

Cindy Elliott, Utahn Impacted by Opioids

I cannot possibly describe what passage of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) means to my family and me. As a person who has been in recovery for almost six years, I can attest to the challenges that I face daily in the fight to maintain sobriety, as well as the impact that generations of addiction has had on my family. My father committed suicide almost five years ago because he could not withstand the stigma and struggle associated with this disease. While I was in treatment, I watched individuals 20 years younger than myself fight and lose their battles with opioid addiction. Today, I commend Members of Congress and my Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah, for working diligently to ensure that addiction is treated as a disease. I have hope that CARA and future legislation will prevent families from experiencing tragedies similar to those that mine has to bear.