U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin Calls on Republican Majority to Take Action on Emergency Funding to Tackle Prescription Opioid and Heroin Crisis

Bill would provide $600 million for prevention, intervention, treatment and recovery 

Opioids contributed to 45 percent of the 843 Wisconsin drug overdose deaths in 2013

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, today joined a growing chorus of Senate Democrats calling on the Republican Majority to back up their rhetoric and support passage of desperately-needed emergency funding and significant new funding for a national consumer education campaign on opioids, to help stem the opioid abuse crisis in states throughout the country. The call comes following passage of legislation out of the Senate Judiciary committee that authorizes, but does not allocate, new funding to address the prescription abuse and heroin crisis.

Earlier this week, Senator Baldwin announced her support for emergency funding legislation to address the heroin and opioid abuse epidemic that is devastating communities in Wisconsin and across the country. The Opioid and Heroin Epidemic Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act (S. 2423), introduced by Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), would provide supplemental appropriations totaling $600 million to programs at the Department of Justice and the Department of Health and Human Services.                                                   

“Rhetoric is not enough to solve the problem. Opioid abuse is an epidemic in the United States that continues to grow at an alarming rate and communities deserve emergency funds immediately,” said Senator Baldwin. “As communities in Wisconsin continue to struggle with this epidemic on a daily basis, it’s time for Senate Republicans to join our call and act immediately to supply additional funding for prevention, treatment and recovery efforts. This emergency funding is vital to our first responders, healthcare providers and criminal justice system as they continue to respond to this national emergency.”

From 2002 to 2013, opioid-related deaths have quadrupled nationally according to the latest data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. And in Wisconsin, according to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, drug overdose deaths doubled from 2004 to 2013, and more Wisconsin residents died in 2013 as a result of drug overdose than from motor vehicle crashes, suicide, breast cancer, colon cancer, firearms, influenza, or HIV.  Opioid pain relievers contributed to 45 percent of the 843 drug overdose deaths in 2013, while heroin contributed to 27 percent.

Despite this, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that in 2013, only approximately 11 percent of people in the United States that needed substance use disorder treatment actually received it. Additionally, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has reported that there are approximately 32 providers for every 1,000 individuals needing substance use disorder treatment, further demonstrating the urgency for Congress to approve emergency federal funds, such as that supported by Senator Baldwin, that will provide additional resources for prevention, treatment, emergency first responders and more to stem the opioid epidemic on the ground. 

Senator Baldwin is a strong supporter of increased funding for prescription drug and opioid abuse prevention, treatment and research programs. In March, as a member of the Appropriations Committee, she led a call to strengthen federal investments in the FY 2016 budget to combat the growing prescription drug and opioid abuse epidemic in America, including the CDC’s Prevention for States program. The final FY 2016 funding legislation (the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016) included increased funding for prevention, research and treatment programs administered by the Department of Health and Human Services.

Last week, President Obama announced his proposal to invest $1.1 billion in his FY 2017 budget proposal to address the epidemic of prescription opioid abuse and heroin use. The President’s proposal takes a two-pronged approach. It includes $1 billion in new mandatory funding over two years to expand access to treatment for prescription drug abuse and heroin use. This funding will boost efforts to help individuals with an opioid use disorder seek treatment, successfully complete treatment, and sustain recovery.