U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin Supports Action on Bipartisan Legislation to Address Mental Health and the National Opioid Crisis

Senate health committee passes legislation that includes key reforms from Senator Baldwin

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin, a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, supported a legislative package to address mental health and opioid addiction that unanimously passed through the committee this week.

“I’m proud to support this bipartisan action to move us forward in the fight to address our nation’s substance use and opioid addiction crisis,” said Senator Baldwin. “This is a multifaceted problem that needs a comprehensive approach to address the entire spectrum of addiction and to support those suffering with substance use disorders. The legislation that we advanced in committee will significantly strengthen our health system’s ability to enhance prevention, treatment and recovery services for our families struggling with prescription drug abuse.”

The legislative package includes several key reforms based on legislation Senator Baldwin introduced with Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH), the Heroin and Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention and Reduction Act:

  • Access to Buprenorphine: The legislation includes language to expand the number of patients providers can treat for opioid dependence using buprenorphine. It allows qualifying physicians, nurse practitioners, and physician’s assistants to treat up to 100 patients in the first year and allows qualified physicians to obtain a waiver to treat an unlimited amount per certain training requirements.
  • Co-Prescribing of Naloxone: The legislation includes a provision to direct HHS, VA, and DoD to provide practitioners with best practices for co-prescribing naloxone in conjunction with opioids for patients at an elevated risk of overdose.
  • Improving Maternal Health: The legislation authorizes a pilot grant program to allow states and other entities to expand treatment services beyond residential treatment for pregnant and postpartum women with substance use disorders, such as more family-based treatment services along the continuum of care.

The legislative package also includes additional provisions led and supported by Senator Baldwin:

  • CDC Guidelines: Senator Baldwin championed a provision that directs the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to disseminate the recent safe opioid prescribing guidelines to providers in succinct, usable formats, such as clinical decision support tools and training modules. With the CDC guidelines released this week, this will ensure CDC promptly takes the next step to widely share these critical resources.
  • NIH Chronic Pain Research: A bipartisan reform cosponsored by Senator Baldwin, the STOP Pain Act, was included that directs NIH to accelerate research on chronic pain to better understand the condition and to discover new therapies, including opioid alternatives.

Senator Baldwin also supported a measure to reauthorize grants to states to maintain, improve, and expand their prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs), and to improve state plans to coordinate care for substance-exposed infants under the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA).

Last week, the Senate passed the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), cosponsored by Senator Baldwin, which would take the first step in providing a comprehensive, evidence-based approach to help Americans combat the heroin and opioid epidemic devastating communities in Wisconsin and across America. Senator Baldwin also announced that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has awarded over $1.7 million dollars to community health centers in Wisconsin to help fight the opioid epidemic. The funding will expand the delivery of substance abuse services, including medication assisted treatment, with a focus on treatment of opioid use disorders.