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CARA provides tool for opioid, heroin battle

My Opinion
U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly, Guest Writer

Too many families have been touched by addiction or suffered the loss of a loved one as a result of opioid abuse, heroin use or other drug epidemics.
This is about our friends and neighbors in communities in every part of our state. This is a problem for our families, businesses, law enforcement professionals, health care providers and our educators. We often hear about the need to raise awareness about the dangers of opioid abuse and the challenges many people face accessing treatment.
That is why I have been working on this issue for over two years, listening to Hoosiers, introducing bipartisan legislation, partnering with federal, state and local officials and bringing together stakeholders.
It will take all of us, working together, to prevent and treat addiction and confront this public health crisis.
As part of this effort, I worked with my colleagues, Republican and Democratic, in the U.S. Senate, and we recently passed the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act. This bill would provide states and local communities with tools to prevent and treat drug addiction and support individuals in recovery.
CARA would strengthen prevention efforts, increase access to treatment and recovery services, develop best prescribing practices and expand access to naloxone, which can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose.
In addition, CARA would expand disposal sites for unwanted and unused prescription drugs to keep them out of the hands of children and teens. And, CARA would strengthen prescription drug-monitoring programs.
I want to highlight several areas where CARA would help address the opioid abuse and heroin epidemics.
First, it would help our prescribers. We want to make sure that doctors have the training, tools and resources that they need in an effort to prevent over-prescribing and also to help them make decisions about how to treat their patients.
Right now, there is no one set of current, nationally accepted best practices to help prescribers. CARA includes a provision adopted from my bipartisan legislation that I reintroduced last year with Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., which would bring experts together to review, modify and update, where necessary, best practices for pain management and prescribing pain medication.
Second, CARA would assist our first responders and our law enforcement, who are on the front lines of this crisis. Frequently, they are called to scenes where an individual has overdosed and they are working to find ways to address these drug epidemics.
CARA includes a provision similar to one from my bipartisan bill with Sen. Ayotte that would provide grants to train law enforcement and other first responders to administer naloxone.
I also had an amendment adopted to CARA that would encourage first responder units that receive funding through this program to use outreach coordinators to ensure that individuals who receive naloxone also receive in-person follow-up to help them get connected with treatment or other necessary services. Indianapolis EMS recently began a similar outreach program, designed to connect overdose victims who receive naloxone with the help that they need.
Third, this legislation would help families by raising awareness about opioid abuse and heroin use and expanding access to treatment. It includes a provision adopted from my bipartisan bill with Sen. Ayotte that would establish a national drug awareness campaign. By helping families learn about the serious effects of opioid abuse and its connection to heroin, it could help make a difference.
CARA also would strengthen additional prevention efforts and increase access to treatment and recovery services, with the goal of helping more people overcome addiction. CARA would be a significant step forward, although I think we can all agree it’s just a first step.
Editor’s note: On May 11, U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., welcomed the passage of H.R. 4641, Congresswoman Susan Brooks’ bipartisan legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives that is similar to his provision that earlier passed the U.S. Senate.