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McConnell: New Law Addressing Heroin, Opioid Crisis Heads to President's Desk

The following is written by Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY):

In my travels across the state, I hear constantly from Kentuckians whose lives have been devastated by the opioid and heroin epidemic that is ravaging our country. The Bluegrass State has been particularly hard hit: 1,248 people died from drug overdoses last year alone, a record high for Kentucky. It’s clear that something must be done.

That’s why, as Senate Majority Leader, I have made it a priority to pass legislation to address this epidemic. Just this week, the Senate passed and sent to the president’s desk for signature the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA). This bipartisan legislation authorizes programs and funding to target the prescription opioid and heroin crisis at every level and will help the Commonwealth combat the scourge of addiction.

Through enhanced education and prevention efforts, the bill works to keep more people from ever becoming addicted in the first place. It also bolsters treatment, recovery and law-enforcement tools to help those already caught in the cycle of addiction and to prevent more senseless loss of life.

It’s not hard to see why nearly 250 drug-fighting organizations signed a letter of support for CARA, including Kentucky organizations like the Carter County Drug Free Coalition, Seven Counties Services, and Voices of Hope—Lexington.

Kim Moser, Director of the Northern Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy, said of the bill: “Passage of…CARA will enable communities to provide much needed treatment for substance-use disorders, and families and individuals to heal from the devastating effects of addiction. It is time to reverse the cycle of relapse, recidivism and overdoses which affect every corner of our communities.”

Dr. Kelly Clark, the president-elect of the American Society of Addiction Medicine, said this: “In Kentucky I have treated patients, their parents, and grandparents. This epidemic is devastating whole communities. CARA will make it possible to improve evidence-based prevention, treatment, and recovery resources throughout Kentucky, including our rural areas.”

These statements are from just a few of the many Kentucky organizations that support CARA. The bill has earned widespread bipartisan support due to its comprehensive approach to tackling the drug epidemic.

I have traveled across Kentucky, visiting with the families and communities hit hardest by the drug epidemic, for several years. I see how heroin and prescription drug abuse is wrecking lives and destroying families, which is why last year at my request Michael Botticelli, the Director of National Drug Control Policy—known as the nation’s drug czar—visited Kentucky and participated in a community discussion about the challenges faced by those in the medical, public health, and law-enforcement fields who confront drug addiction on a regular basis.

I’ve also sought to protect the most vulnerable victims of drug abuse—the babies who are born dependent on opioids and suffering from withdrawal. That’s why I introduced a bill, the Protecting Our Infants Act, and ushered it through the Senate and into law. It works to prevent prenatal exposure to opioids, treat infants born dependent to these drugs, and improve the states’ public health response to this problem.

Now passing CARA is the next step in this years-long effort to combat substance abuse in our communities. No single piece of legislation can solve America’s substance abuse problem overnight. But CARA can begin to turn the tide of increased drug fatalities and help prevent people from using drugs. This Senate which I am proud to lead has also provided more than twice as much funding for opioid-related programs as the previous Senate majority, to fund efforts like those outlined in CARA.

Substance abuse affects Kentuckians from every walk of life, and addiction breaks apart families. I hear stories like this one from a mother in Florence, Kentucky, all too often. “My son is in jail and at least I know he is safe,” she wrote to me. “We must have a heroin bill this year. There are so many lives lost and so many more headed in that direction.”

CARA will benefit Kentucky a great deal. Still, we must work harder to save our children, our friends, and our families from the scourge of substance abuse. As Senate Majority Leader, I will continue to make fighting drug abuse and protecting Kentuckians one of my most urgent priorities.

Mitch McConnell is the senior U.S. Senator from Kentucky and Senate Majority Leader