Senator Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, a member and chairman or former chairman of three different Senate committees that share jurisdiction on opioid issues, commended the President for declaring our current opioid situation a nationwide public health emergency.
Hatch—who called attention to the dangers of opioid addiction long before the issue became a full-blown crisis—praised the President, saying, “I am sobered by the President’s action, but I hope this will provide the necessary resources and coordination to address the opioid epidemic that is sweeping our country. Although this crisis is affecting all states, it has been particularly devastating in my home state of Utah, where dozens of men and women die each month from overdose. While Congress and state officials have made progress in stemming the tide of opioid addiction, much work remains to be done. It’s unfortunate that the situation requires such dire steps as a national public health emergency, but I’m hopeful that this will be a meaningful step to end this epidemic once and for all.”
Last month, Senator Hatch introduced the Marijuana Effective Drug Study Act of 2017, orMEDS Act, which will encourage exploration on the potential medical uses of marijuana by streamlining the research process. Hatch addressed the growing opioid epidemic as motivation for researching marijuana as a non-narcotic alternative.
When the Senate passed critical opioid legislation last year, Hatch spoke about the impact opioid abuse has had on Utah, as well as his own efforts to address the crisis. Hatch played a critical role in passing the Senate’s Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2016 (CARA). In addition to rallying bipartisan support for CARA, Hatch negotiated the bill’s Utah-specific provisions, including an amendment to help infants born to mothers suffering from opioid addiction. He also included provisions addressing pain research and access to medication-assisted treatment. At the time, Hatch 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, opioids killed 289 Utahns, accounting for more than half of all drug-overdose related deaths in the state for that year.” See more about that legislative victory in the Deseret News.
In the year 2000, Senator Hatch—along with Senators Joe Biden (D-DE) and Carl Levin (D-MI)—authored DATA 2000, one of the Senate’s first efforts to address the opioid epidemic. This bipartisan proposal expanded access to treatments, such as buprenorphine, for those recovering from opioid addiction. You can find comments Senator Hatch has made on the opioid epidemic here.