U.S. Rep. Andy Barr, R-Sixth District, was on hand Thursday for a Capitol ceremony in which congressional leaders sent the Comprehensive Additional Recovery Act to the White House for President Obama’s signature.
CARA, as the legislation is known, includes some key recommendations from the Sixth District Task Force that Barr created last year, the congressman noted in a statement sent by his office.
“The bill we are sending the President today reflects the priorities and needs outlined to me by the Sixth District Drug Abuse Task Force,” Barr said. “Kentucky has been particularly hard hit by the growing epidemic of drug abuse. I am proud that proposals by our task force of Kentuckians have been included in this package which is now likely to become law.
“Federal legislation alone will not solve this crisis,” Barr continued, “but this bipartisan effort will have a meaningful impact in ensuring those on the front lines will have the resources and tools to help more of our fellow citizens recover from addiction and lead productive and dignified lives.”
According to a summary posted on congress.gov, some key provisions of the bill are:
• Expanded prevention and treatment programs, including those operated by local, state and tribal governments as well as non-profits.
• Enhanced collaboration between criminal justice and substance abuse agencies.
• Increased transitional housing for those who have completed treatment.
• Expanded services for veterans suffering from opioid addiction.
• More care for infants born to addicted mothers.
• New guidelines for prescribers of opioids designed to avoid overdoses and addiction.
• Enhanced tracking of opioid prescriptions.
• Training of more first responders to administer opioid reversal drugs such as Narcan.
• Limiting the liability of those who administer reversal drugs.
While the bill includes help for law enforcement, “We won’t be able to incarcerate ourselves out of this problem,” Barr told The Register in an interview this spring. “We need more beds in treatment facilities and more transitional housing,” among an array of programs.
The city of Richmond used a portion of its federal Section 8 subsidized housing allotment so the Liberty Place Women’s Recovery Center in Richmond could build eight transitional apartments that opened in March. More such units may become available, thanks to the CARA legislation, Barr said in May.
Liberty Place, a local residential facility, and Bluegrass.org, formerly known as Comprehensive Care, are the best know treatment programs in Madison County. Both could be among the first to benefit from CARA, said Jim Thacker of the Madison County Health Department. However, officials will have to wait until they can study the act’s provisions before they can comment, he said.
Local first responders will welcome all the help and every new tool they can get, said Madison County EMS Director Carlos Coyle when asked about the legislation.
The opioid crisis, especially heroin use, continues to worsen in Madison County, he said.
From Jan. 1 through June 30, local EMS personnel have treated 238 people with opioid reversal drugs, he said, an increase of 95 from the same period a year earlier.
“We’re even getting calls from law enforcement officers who find people passed out in their cars at intersections,” Coyle said. Those users presumably drove to obtain new supplies of their drugs and took them before getting home, he explained.
When many addicts switched to heroin after state laws stemmed the flow of prescription pain killers, overdose cases increased. Users can never be sure of the strength of the heroin and other street drugs they take, Coyle noted.
“We usually can tell when a new shipment of heroin arrives in Madison County,” Coyle said. “Then we will have three to four overdoses reported in about two hours.”
That’s because new shipments have not yet been diluted by resellers, he explained.
All Madison County EMS paramedics are trained to administer Narcan, Coyle said, but he was unsure how widespread the training was among law enforcement agencies. The EMS director said he understood some local school personnel are to receive the training before classes resume next month.
While heroin overdoses in local schools are extremely rare, overdoses from other opiods have taken place, Coyle said.
Still some partisan bickering
While Barr hailed CARA’s bi-partisan support — it passed the House of Representatives 407-5 — both the White House and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., could not resist some partisan swipes as they acknowledge passage of the measure that reflects a blend of differing bills that passed the two congressional bodies.
Although the President would have preferred an addition $920 million in funding authorization that congressional Democrats supported, a release from the White House press office Wednesday said he would sign the bill that is “better than none.”
“Every day that Republicans stand in the way of action to fund opioid treatment means more missed opportunities to save lives: 78 Americans die every day from opioid overdose,” according to the White House statement.
“Congressional Republicans have not done their jobs until they provide the funding for treatment that communities need to combat this epidemic,” the statement added
McConnell pointed the finger of blame at Democrats.
Legislation to address the opioid epidemic languished under a Democratic judiciary committee chairman, McConnell said on the Senate floor, according to a statement released by his office. However, the current chair, Sen. Charge Grassley, R-Iowa, worked to change that. “He made it a priority and moved it swiftly. CARA wouldn’t have been possible without him” and Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-New Hampshire, and Sen. Rob Portman, R-Minn, McConnell said.FacebookTwitterGoogle +