WASHINGTON, D.C. –Today, U.S. Sen. Tom Udallvoted in favor of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), a bipartisan bill he cosponsors to help tackle the drug abuse epidemic in New Mexico communities and across the nation.
The bill passed 94-1 and now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration. Udall said that the legislation is a step forward, but Congress also needs to commit additional funding to address the drug abuse epidemic head-on. Last week, Senate Republicans blocked an amendment Udall cosponsored to add $600 million in emergency funding to the bill to directly aid health and law enforcement professionals in the fight against addiction.
“Prescription opioid and heroin abuse has taken a tragic toll on families across New Mexico and the nation. More Americans die each year from drug overdoses than car crashes,” Udall said. “Addiction has hit our rural communities particularly hard — Rio Arriba County has the highest rate of overdose deaths in the nation, and our Tribal communities are also suffering the deadly effects of this public health crisis. I’ve heard from parents who have lost children and even members of my staff who have lost close friends.
This bill takes small steps forward by reauthorizing and improving existing programs. But our commitment needs to be equal to the challenge, and I’m disappointed that we did not pass an amendment I supported to provide $600 million in additional funding. We can’t just talk about fighting addiction — our communities on the front lines of the addiction battle need additional resources to address this emergency.”
While CARA is not a funding bill, it does take action to combat drug abuse by directing resources to prevent prescription opioid and heroin abuse, providing training and increased access to law enforcement officials for the lifesaving overdose-reversal drug naloxone, improving treatment options for incarcerated patients and veterans, and encouraging state-based, comprehensive plans to address this epidemic. The bill also supports the expansion of important prescription drug takeback efforts.
The emergency funding amendment that Udall supported would have put more funds into block grant programs that directly aid health and law enforcement professionals, primarily the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant Program and the Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant Program. New Mexico could have received an estimated $3 million in additional funding to combat substance abuse if Senate Republicans had not blocked the measure.
As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Udall will continue to fight for resources to help New Mexico communities provide prevention and treatment for anyone who seeks it. Udall strongly supports the president’s proposal to dedicate $1.1 billion to fight the heroin and prescription opioid abuse epidemic in New Mexico and across the country. He has also introduced legislation — the Increasing the Safety of Prescription Drug Use Act — to expand access to treatment options for addicted patients, strengthen training for medical professionals and increase abuse prevention opportunities.