Murkowski Votes to Fight Devastating Opioid Abuse Epidemic

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) voted in favor of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), a bill she co-sponsored, that supports community-based drug treatment programs and provides critical resources for those battling opioid addiction. U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan (R-AK) is a co-sponsor of the legislation. The bill passed the Senate by a vote of 94-1.

Senator Murkowski spoke on the Senate floor about the need for drug abuse treatment and prevention programs, saying:

“…this is perhaps one of the most important pieces of legislation that the Senate will take up this year. Opioid addiction has become of the most pressing public health issues facing American families all across the nation. This not is a single state’s issue, addiction does not discriminate against any group and it cannot be confined to one geographic region. It impacts us all from the young to the old, the lower, middle and higher income levels, veterans, pregnant women, and even newborn babies all can suffer from addiction. There are heartbreaking stories from the homes of my colleagues on the east coast all the way to some of our most remote villages in Alaska. We all have seen and heard of the pain opioid addiction causes. That is why it is so essential we take action and address this issue now before it continues to worsen. The rates of addiction and hospitalization will only continue to skyrocket otherwise. This is our opportunity to not only treat but prevent opioid addiction.”

(Senator Murkowski speaks on the Senate floor prior to final vote—click image to watch.)

CARA also provides treatment of pregnant women and infants suffering from Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome, supports youth and community recovery programs, grants for areas that have experienced rapid opioid or heroin abuse increase, veteran treatment programs, and grants to the juvenile and criminal justice system.

The bill is supported by the National Council for Behavioral Health, a wide variety of psychiatric, law enforcement, and addiction treatment organizations—as well as the American Public Health Association and the National Association of Attorneys General.

The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services released a report in 2015 on the health impacts of heroin use in the state. The report found:

  • The rates for inpatient hospitalizations for heroin poisoning have nearly doubled between 2008-2012.
  • The number of patients admitted to substance abuse treatment increased from 58% to 74% for patients between 21-29.
  • The number of heroin-related deaths more than tripled between 2008-2013, for a total of 72.
  • Alaska’s number of heroin-related deaths is 42% higher than the U.S. overall.