Portman testifies on opioid abuse epidemic

U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) testified on Wednesday about S. 525, the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), before the Senate Judiciary Committee, noting that 2,482 Ohioans died from a drug overdose last year.

“No matter where I go in my home state of Ohio I hear the same story,” Portman said. “I hear it from mothers, I hear it from fathers, brothers, sisters, friends. I hear heartbreaking stories of how addiction is ruining lives, tearing apart families, devastating communities. This epidemic is striking very close to home.

“We need to focus more on not just the prevention and education but treatment and recovery…I think CARA is an investment…It’s not inexpensive but it’s an investment where communities are desperate for resources. And expertise. It’s a small investment for the future. We will know success by empty jail cells, by the number of people who never have to struggle with addiction in the first place, by the moms and dads who now can be reunited with their kids. The message is very simple. Today, there is something we can do to help.”

Portman added that addiction costs the U.S. $700 billion per year, including lost productivity, expensive health care, crime, and the cost of incarceration and policing.

“Solving this crisis requires a holistic approach and the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act…is critical, I believe,” Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) told the committee. “We brought together over 120 stakeholder groups across the country to put this legislation together – those who are on the front line in every aspect.

“If we don’t get the support and treatment for those who are struggling with addiction and deal with the underlying issues, we are not going to solve this problem…We cannot arrest our way out of this problem. This is not about statistics. This is about real people dying.”

The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2015 (CARA), co-authored by Portman and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), is designed to provide new incentives and resources to address addiction. The act uses evidence-based testing methods as a means of expanding treatment while increasing educational efforts targeting teens, parents and other caretakers to eventually stop drug abuse before it stats.

Portman has made fighting drug abuse a cornerstone of his time in Congress. In 2015, Portman co-authored the Stopping Medication Abuse and Protecting Seniors Act (S. 1913), which would prevent inappropriate access to opioids while improving patient care for at-risk beneficiaries. Nearly 20 years ago, while in the House of Representatives, Portman’s Drug-Free Communities Act was signed into law to provide millions of dollars in support to hundreds of community anti-drug coalitions nationwide.

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