WASHINGTON, D.C. ― U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico’s Third District on Wednesday spoke on the House floor in support of the 21st Century Cures Act, which included language Congressman Luján championed that authorizes $1 billion in funding to combat the growing opioid epidemic.
“In communities across our country, families are struggling with the pain of addiction to opioids,” said Luján in a statement on the House floor. “The legislation we are considering today promises one billion dollars for the opioid crisis. Though we cannot bring back those who we have lost, we owe it to them and their families to pass this bill. This funding will make a real difference in real people’s lives.”
In addition, the 21st Century Cures Act provides the National Institutes of Health (NIH) with $4.8 billion in funding over the next 10 years, targeted at Vice President Biden’s Cancer Moonshot, the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative, and the Precision Medicine Initiative — a bold research effort to revolutionize how we improve health and treat disease. The bill also takes bipartisan steps toward improving our nation’s mental health system.
In addition to the $1 billion in funding to combat the opioid epidemic, the 21st Century Cures Act includes a provision Congressman Luján helped author to provide a continuum of care for physical therapy patients.
This provision, which is based on legislation the Congressman introduced with Congressman Gus Bilirakis (R-Fla.), amends Medicare Part B to require physical therapists providing outpatient physical therapy services to use specified locum tenens arrangements for payment purposes when the PT practice is located in a health professional shortage area, a medically underserved area, or a rural area.
“Physical therapy is an important part of high-quality, evidence-based, integrated health care and I was pleased that my bill was included in this package,” Luján said.
The 21st Century Cure Act also includes a sense of Congress authored by the Congressman to prioritize suicide prevention programs for American Indians and Alaska Native youth.
Below is a transcript of Congressman Luján’s speech:
“Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the Chairman and Ranking Members of the Energy and Commerce Committee as well as Congresswoman DeGette for their bipartisan cooperation during this long legislative process. This is a good, if imperfect bill that will provide vital funding to the National Institutes of Health and the Vice President’s Cancer Moonshot, while taking steps to strengthen our mental health system.
“But I want to focus my remarks on the critical investments this bill promises to combat the opioid epidemic. In communities across our country, families are struggling with the pain of addiction to opioids. Earlier this year, Congress took an important step against substance abuse by passing the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, or CARA.
“Unfortunately, Congressional Republicans did not support including the funding necessary to CARA’s success. This was a missed opportunity. In the months since Congress passed CARA, we’ve lost parents, siblings, children, and friends – 129 people, every day.
“When I talk to New Mexicans on the frontlines of this crisis, the most urgent need is for more resources. That is why I introduced the Opioid and Heroin Abuse Crisis Investment Act. This bill, cosponsored by nearly a hundred of my colleagues, sought to advance the President’s proposal to combat this epidemic.
“The legislation we are considering today, like my bill, promises one billion dollars for the opioid crisis. Though we cannot bring back those who we have lost, we owe it to them and their families to pass this bill. This funding will make a real difference in real people’s lives.
“While I am relieved that we will soon be able to get resources to our communities, I am fearful that some of my colleagues will see this as a ‘Mission Accomplished’ instead of what it must be: a first step toward healing our communities.
“But I can’t help but ask my Republican colleagues who support the advances we are making today for mental health: ‘Why are they preparing to roll back the most important advances we’ve made for mental health in the past 8 years, by promising to repeal the Affordable Care Act?’
“The 21st Century Cures Act shows what can happen when we work across the aisle. I hope we’ll truly continue to work together to strengthen our nation’s health system.”