Carper: It’s All Hands On Deck to Fight the Opioid Epidemic

During a PSI hearing to combat drug trafficking, Senator Carper highlights the importance of postal reform and Medicaid funding in the fight against the nation’s opioid epidemic

WASHINGTON—Today in a hearing before the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, senators examined the U.S. strategy to combat drug trafficking and stop the shipment of synthetic opioids.

Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.), top Democrat on the subcommittee, highlighted the impact of the deadly opioid epidemic in Delaware’s communities.

“Today’s opioid crisis is arguably the worst in American history, and Delaware has not been immune to this heartbreaking epidemic,” Senator Carper said. “Over the past three years, hundreds of families in Delaware have suffered the loss of their loved ones to fatal overdoses, and many more have witnessed someone they love struggle with addiction and substance abuse. We know that opioid addiction is a complex problem, but we also know that fatal overdoses are preventable. It’s absolutely imperative that Congress provides not just law enforcement but also our health care providers with the tools and resources they need to save lives and help people recover from this deadly disease. It’s also important that Congress recognizes the critical role the Postal Service plays in keeping dangerous drugs out of our country. Enacting postal reform is an important part of getting the Postal Service the resources they need to effectively partner with CBP to detect and intercept illicit drugs and other contraband.”

Dr. Terry Horton, Chief of the Division of Addiction Medicine and Associate Physician Lead of the Behavioral Health Service Line at Christiana Care Health Services in Wilmington, Delaware, was one of the witnesses in the hearing.

“In Delaware, our largest substance use disorder treatment provider first began medication assisted treatment when Medicaid covered the cost of that care; they now provide thousands of outpatient treatment slots for patients with opioid addiction—slots that are at risk of being eliminated under the House proposal,” Dr. Horton said in his testimony.

“I spend my days caring for patients addicted to opioids,” Dr. Horton continued. “I am witnessing this epidemic firsthand—and I suspect some of you are as well. We see how this epidemic is devastating lives and families and killing so many people in our communities. I also know that we have treatments that are effective and that help the people we care for return to their lives and return to society. I respectfully encourage this Committee to reject any attempts to remove the Medicaid funding and insurance coverage that support treatment for so many people in my community, and so many Americans.”

This hearing comes just a day after the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released its analysis of the Affordable Health Care Act, the House Republican health care plan that would cut more than $800 from Medicaid and allow states to waive out of essential health benefits that provide protections for preexisting conditions, including substance abuse and mental health. Senator Carper pushed for maintaining the Affordable Care Act’s protections for those with preexisting conditions and robust funding for Medicaid to treat those with addiction and substance abuse disorders.

“Medicaid provides the lion’s share of payments for addiction and substance abuse treatment in Delaware,” Senator Carper continued. “The House Republican health care plan, combined with President Trump’s budget proposal, would cut more than $1 trillion from Medicaid, which will undoubtedly make this deadly crisis worse. Those deeps cuts would put millions of Americans at risk of losing coverage for substance abuse prevention, treatment, and recovery services. As this opioid crisis worsens, we need to work together in a bipartisan way to ensure our health care providers and law enforcement officials have the tools they need to save lives.”