Heinrich Opening Statement At Joint Economic Committee Hearing On Opioid Crisis

U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich
 
SENATE News:
 
WASHINGTON, D.C.  U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Ranking Member of the Joint Economic Committee, delivered the following statement at June 8 hearing entitled “Economic Aspects of the Opioid Crisis.”
 
In his opening remarks, Ranking Member Heinrich highlighted the impact of Medicaid cuts to substance abuse treatment and mental health care in the House Republicans’ TrumpCare bill.
 
Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
 
Thank you, Chairman Tiberi, and thank you to our panel for being here today. 
 
Addiction to heroin and prescription opioid pain relievers is a public health epidemic that is devastating families and communities across the country.
 
Every day, 91 Americans die from an opioid overdose. 
 
Over-prescription is partially responsible for the epidemic. 
 
Since 1999, the amount of prescription opioids sold in the U.S. nearly quadrupled and so too has the number of overdose deaths from opioids.
 
The economic costs of addiction are enormous – totaling more than $80 billion in 2013 from increased health care costs, higher rates of incarceration, and lost productivity.
 
New Mexicans know too well the devastation heroin and prescription opioids can wreak.
 
For years, without adequate treatment resources, communities in New Mexico have suffered through some of the highest rates of opioid and heroin addiction and overdose deaths in the nation. 
 
Rio Arriba County has a drug overdose death rate of 81 per 100,000 – five times the national rate.
 
I’m reminded of Josh from Espanola, who I met at a round table I hosted in Rio Arriba County last spring.
 
At 14 years old, Josh became addicted to prescription opioids. 
 
Over time he moved to heroin.  He stole from family and friends to maintain his growing addiction. 
 
Josh spent time in jail where he went through the pains of withdrawal.  He even attempted suicide but his gun didn’t go off.
 
Now in his 20s, Josh has turned his life around because he finally got access to treatment and services. 
 
For millions of Americans, proven substance use treatment is available because of 1) behavioral health parity laws, and 2) the Medicaid program.
 
In New Mexico, Medicaid – called Centennial Care – is at the forefront of our fight against the opioid crisis, accounting for 30 percent of life-saving medication-assisted treatment payments for opioid and heroin addictions.
 
At exactly the time Congress should be giving states more tools to fight this epidemic, House Republicans passed a bill that would repeal Medicaid expansion, artificially cap the program, and shift the burden about who and what to cut onto states.
 
More than a million people who have been able to secure treatment for substance abuse would lose their coverage.
 
Repealing Medicaid expansion would cut about $4.5 billion from treatment for mental health and substance abuse.
 
We can’t fight a public health crisis with grant dollars alone.  Grant dollars run out.  Block grants lose their buying power over time. 
 
And private investment dollars – which are critical in this fight – won’t come without certainty that the foundation is funded.
 
Unfortunately, I won’t be able to stay to hear your important testimony because of a hearing in the Intelligence Committee.
 
But I will be leaving you in the very capable hands of my colleague, Senator Hassan.
 
New Hampshire loses at least one person every day to a drug overdose.  As Governor, Senator Hassan used every tool at her disposal to fight the epidemic, including turning to the flexibility of the Medicaid program to gain ground in her state’s fight.
 
I will let her to tell you more, but I leave you with this:  when a community faces a public health crisis, it’s not long before a state turns to the Medicaid program to stem the tide.
 
What will our states and communities do to address this public health crisis – and the next one – without the guarantee of federal Medicaid dollars to support them?
 
Thank you, Senator Hassan.
 
Mr. Chairman, I’d like to yield my remaining time to Senator Hassan for brief remarks.
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