Murkowski on Combatting Opioid Crisis

Pushes for prevention efforts, education programs, and improved treatment

Today U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) participated in a Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee hearing to address the federal response to the nation’s opioid crisis, which included assessing current agency efforts and how federal, state, and local health departments are coordinating and working together. 

“The opioid epidemic is devastating communities in Alaska and across our nation. The families, friends and communities that are working together to address opioid addiction need to know that they are not alone and that the situations that they face are not hopeless. We can provide that hope. While we work to provide the tools needed to build up communities so they can really come together to fight back against the addiction that we see, we all know that there is much more work to be done. I remain dedicated to the fight against substance abuse now and well into the future.”

During the hearing, the committee heard from witnesses representing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Food and Drug Administration, and National Institutes of Health. The hearing addressed prevention efforts (such as combating prescription drug misuse and abuse), research initiatives on non-addictive interventions for chronic pain, and improving treatment for addiction.

One specific concern raised by Senator Murkowski, was how to help provide medication-assisted treatment to rural Alaskan communities where providers are not available locally to administer medication first-hand.

“I’d like to explore options with whomever is willing to work with us because I look at this as an issue. We do some pretty extraordinary things with telehealth and how we dispense the controlled substances in a tightly regulated, controlled way. And we think that we’ve got the tools in place, but we do need to have some level of exemption or waiver option out there.”

Dr. Elinore F. Mc-Cance-Katz, Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use with SAMHSA, discussed promising opportunities on potential waivers within the Ryan Haight Act that could be leveraged to bridge the gap of care for patients. Furthermore, Dr. Francis Collins, Director of NIH, confirmed that the NIH sees great potential in building on the innovative methods already in place, to help further assist patients across the state. Click here to see the full interview.

Senator Murkowski also addressed the progress being made to eliminate avenues for individuals’ ability to purchase unapproved prescription medications and illicit drugs online. Click here to view the video.

Background: Senator Murkowski was a co-sponsor of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), which became law July 22, 2016. The legislation supports community-based drug treatment programs and provides critical resources for those battling opioid addiction.