WASHINGTON, DC –Two appropriations bills totaling nearly $4 billion are expected to pass the U.S. Senate this week, Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) announced Wednesday.
“When it’s easier for Americans to get their hands on opioids than it is for them to access non-addictive alternatives and treatments, we have a serious problem. These bills continue critical investments through traditional programs and create creative, new approaches to help solve the addiction crisis through important research already happening at the Defense Department,” Brown said.
The funds for the new DOD research program were included as part of the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program (CDMRP) within the Senate’s Defense Appropriations, which passed the Senate Appropriations Committee earlier this month. CDMRP would drive innovation in the medical community and seek to find solutions for medical challenges facing servicemembers.
The creation of this research program would focus on chronic pain management as well as treatment for service-related injuries and stress, as well as developing therapies to prevent dependence on opioids and other addictive substances.
Servicemembers can suffer from chronic pain that is often attributed to a multitude of factors, both combat-related and stress-related as a result their service to our country. With few options outside of prescription opioids, members of the military can be reliant on highly addictive substances, such as opioids, to manage this pain.
The Department of Veterans Affairs released a study in 2016 that shows veterans who receive the highest doses of opioid painkillers are twice as likely to die by suicide as those who receive lower doses.
Over the past 12 years, there has been an increase in prescriptions for opioids among veterans by over 270 percent, which shows the growing use of these highly addictive substances.
The risks of servicemembers and veterans becoming addicted to opioids are both a combat readiness challenge and a significant challenge for family and communities that rely on and support them while serving and after.
According to Brown’s office, the L-HHS bill would direct $3.7 billion toward the prevention and treatment of addiction. This is an increase of $145 million. The bill would provide:
• $1.5 billion for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s state opioid response grant program, which continues a 15 percent set-aside for states with the highest mortality rate related to opioid use disorders, like Ohio;
• $500 million for research related to opioid addiction, development of opioid alternatives, pain management and addiction treatment;
• $476 million for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) opioid overdose prevention and surveillance as well as a public awareness campaign. The bill includes $5 million for a new initiative in CDC to combat infectious diseases directly related to opioid use;
• $1.63 billion for Community Health Centers, which serve more than 24 million patients each year – including more than 743,000 Ohioans. $200 million is provided for Community Health Centers to support and enhance behavioral health, mental health or substance use disorder services;
• $150 million, an increase of $50 million, for Certified Community Behavioral Health Centers;
• $120 million focused on responding to the opioid epidemic in rural communities;
• $60 million, equal to fiscal 2018, for child abuse prevention and treatment programs to support the development and implementation of plans of infant safe care to improve and better coordinate services for newborn children exposed to substances and their families or caregivers, according to the committee; and
• $40 million, the same as in fiscal 2018, for mental health and substance use prevention and treatment for children and families either in, or at-risk of entering, the foster care system.
• In addition to these amounts specifically directed to address the opioid crisis, the bill would provide $1.9 billion for the Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant.