Addressing the Opioid & Heroin Epidemics
As too many Hoosiers have come to know first-hand, prescription opioid abuse and heroin use have created a public health crisis. This epidemic has harmed communities throughout Indiana—large and small, urban and rural. For several years, Joe has helped lead the charge to address opioid addiction in Indiana and across the country. Several of Joe's bipartisan provisions became law in 2016 as part of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA). His provisions were adopted from his bipartisan legislation to update best prescribing practices and raise public awareness, as well as a bipartisan provision he authored that would encourage first responder units to connect individuals who receive naloxone with treatment and other necessary services. CARA also expands access to treatment and support for individuals in recovery.
Joe worked across the aisle to try to stem the tide of this epidemic, and that is why he has done the following:
Met with federal, state, and local public health officials, doctors, and pharmacists to talk about the role providers play in helping address the opioid abuse problem;
Met with and listened to impacted families, parent advocates, and treatment providers;
Worked with Indiana University School of Medicine to learn about its efforts to educate and train medical students, residents, and physicians to confront the opioid epidemic; and
Introduced bipartisan legislation with then-U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) and supported bipartisan companion legislation introduced in the House of Representatives by Congresswoman Susan Brooks (IN-05).
The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA)
Joe helped the Senate pass CARA in March 2016, and it was signed into law on July 22, 2016. CARA is bipartisan legislation that would provide states and local communities with tools to prevent and treat drug addiction and support individuals in recovery.
CARA also includes provisions adopted from legislation that Joe and then-Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) introduced in 2015, including an effort to bring experts together to update best practices for pain management and an awareness campaign to educate providers, patients, and the public on the dangers of prescription opioid abuse and its connection to heroin.
Joe also offered an amendment to CARA that was adopted by the Senate by unanimous voice vote. His amendment clarifies that first responder units receiving CARA grant funding for naloxone programs can use those funds to establish outreach coordinators who would ensure that individuals who receive naloxone also receive in-person follow-ups to help them get connected with treatment or other necessary services. Indianapolis EMS began a similar outreach program in winter 2016 designed to connect overdose victims who receive naloxone with the help that they need.
The 21st Century Cures Act
Joe long has said that it’s important to fund programs and initiatives to confront the opioid abuse and heroin use epidemics. Joe called on his Senate colleagues to pass necessary, emergency funding to address these epidemics. In September 2016, Joe helped the Senate pass short-term legislation to keep the government running, which included $37 million in new funding to begin implementation of CARA. These funds are helping jumpstart four grant programs in CARA focused on prevention, treatment, and recovery. As the opioid abuse and heroin use epidemics continued to devastate communities in Indiana and across our country, Joe advocated for additional funding to confront this public health emergency and for Congress to act quickly by including resources to fight the opioid epidemic through the bipartisan 21st Century Cures Act.
Joe helped the Senate passed the 21st Century Cures Act and the legislation was signed into law by President Obama in December 2016. The law includes $1 billion to be spent over two years to help combat opioid abuse and heroin use. Funding will be distributed to states to help them address these drug epidemics. Joe has actively fought for both new efforts to help with prevention, treatment, and recovery and the funding necessary to support those programs.
Marion County and LaPorte County HIDTA Designations
As Indiana and our country fight the drug epidemics that are devastating families and communities, Joe was proud to support Marion County and LaPorte County’s successful applications for High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area designations from the Office of National Drug Control Policy. Joe helped Marion County and LaPorte County welcome these federal designations, in the fall of 2016, joining law enforcement officials for announcements to discuss how these resources will help law enforcement.
With this additional federal support, Marion County and LaPorte County will be able to increase coordinated drug enforcement operations, support prevention efforts, and improve public health and safety.
The Heroin and Prescription Opioid Abuse Prevention, Education, and Enforcement Act of 2015
Joe and then-Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) reintroduced bipartisan legislation in April 2015 to address prescription pain medication abuse and heroin use as part of their ongoing efforts to tackle the nation’s growing drug abuse epidemics. Their bill, The Heroin and Prescription Opioid Abuse Prevention, Education, and Enforcement Act of 2015, took a multi-pronged approach to help prevent opioid abuse and overdose deaths and built on similar legislation they originally introduced in 2014. The Ayotte-Donnelly bill aimed to: better enable healthcare providers and public health officials to prevent prescription drug abuse; support law enforcement efforts to get heroin off the streets; allow more first responders access to life-saving naloxone, and raise awareness among health care providers, patients, and the public regarding prescription opioid abuse and heroin. Provisions in this legislation were included in CARA.
Protecting Our Infants Act
Joe supported bipartisan legislation that will help pregnant women overcome opioid abuse, prevent prenatal opioid abuse, and assist newborns suffering from opioid withdrawal and painful symptoms associated with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS). This bill was enacted into law in November 2015.
According to the most recent studies, there are a growing number of newborns who are suffering from drug dependency. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in April 2015 found the rate of neonatal ICU admissions for babies experiencing withdrawal almost quadrupled between 2004 and 2013. According to a study published in the Journal of Perinatology, a baby is born with drug withdrawal every 25 minutes in the U.S.
Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA) Award
Joe was recognized by a national anti-drug coalition for his continued efforts to fight the opioid abuse and heroin use epidemics. He received the Congressional Leadership Award from the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA) in February 2016. CADCA’s Congressional Leadership Award recognizes members of Congress who have championed strategies to enhance substance abuse prevention, education, treatment, and research.
Recommendations to the Governor's Task Force
In response to the announcement that then-Indiana Governor Pence was establishing a Task Force on Drug Enforcement, Treatment, and Prevention, Joe provided recommendations in October 2015 to the Task Force on short- and long-term responses to Indiana's addiction problems.
Several of Joe's recommendations to the Governor's Task Force are being implemented, including an increased focus on INSPECT and advancing prescriber engagement and education.
In the News
Fort Wayne Journal Gazette: Donnelly optimistic about drug abuse fight (January 2016)
By: Brian Francisco
More than 19 months after he helped introduce legislation aimed at reducing heroin use and opioid abuse, U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly says Congress might be ready to act on what he called "a public health crisis."
Donnelly, D-Ind., on Wednesday predicted "a full-scale push" by him and other federal lawmakers for a similar bill.
"We’re going to work non-stop to get this done this year. This problem never takes a day off," Donnelly said in a conference call with reporters.
A Wednesday hearing on heroin and opioid abuse by the Senate Judiciary Committee "is an indication that the ball is moving," Donnelly said. "I am cautiously optimistic this is the year."
Committee members and hearing witnesses discussed the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, which incorporates provisions of a bill that Donnelly and Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., introduced in 2014 and reintroduced in 2015.
CARA would strengthen prescription drug monitoring programs, expand the availability of overdose reversal drugs, expand "take-back" programs for the disposal of unused or unwanted prescription drugs and provide substance abuse treatment for those who are incarcerated.
"My commitment is to have a vote on (the legislation) this year. I’m going to work non-stop to try to get that done," Donnelly told reporters.
Asked why Congress has been slow to consider such legislation, Donnelly said: "I think it is making everybody else in Washington aware how critical this problem is. We were hoping to have this hearing last year. We are very, very happy to have it today."
Donnelly said Rep. Susan Brooks, R-5th, is working to advance a companion bill in the House.
In testimony about CARA at Wednesday’s committee hearing, Ayotte said, "We cannot arrest our way out of this problem." She said New Hampshire reported 320 drug overdose deaths in 2014 and 385 last year.
Indiana, which has a population nearly five times greater than New Hampshire’s, reported 1,172 overdose deaths in 2014, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In remarks broadcast by C-SPAN, Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin told the Judiciary Committee that battling drug abuse is a challenge because "we simply pass out painkillers like candy in America, and we’re unwilling to have that conversation."
Also Wednesday, Donnelly released his office’s annual report for 2015, which he discussed in the conference call. He said he traveled to all of Indiana’s 92 counties during the year and hosted or participated in 327 events in 107 cities and towns over 165 days.
He said his staff helped 1,964 Hoosiers resolve problems with federal agencies and that more than $2.2 million in federal benefits owed to constituents was returned to them.
Donnelly listed the improvement of mental health care for military personnel, the reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank and a two-year suspension of the medical device tax as legislative efforts that he had a role in and that were enacted into law.
WTHI: Donnelly: CARA will combat opioid & heroin epidemics (March 2016)
By: Jon Swaner
TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTHI) – US Senator Joe Donnelly (D-IN) spoke on the Senate floor today for his bi-partisan bill, the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA).
Donnelly, along with Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), has been working on this legislation for about two years.
It looks to remove illicit prescription drug pills from the streets. These drugs include oxycontin, Vicodin and Opana.
“What we’re trying to do is make sure the best prescriber practices are in place so that doctors and others have gotten together and have limited the use of these drugs to those who need them the most,” Donnelly told News 10 in a recent interview.
He says addiction to these opioids can also lead to heroin addiction.
“What we found is 80% of heroin users started with the opioid prescription drugs,” Donnelly added. “So what we’re trying to do is cut off step one.”
The bill will also help provide training for police to administer Narcan, which is used when someone overdoses on heroin.
Louisville Courier Journal: Senate moves to aid Ky., Ind. in heroin fight (March 2016)
By: Beth Warren
Consider a bill approved by the U.S. Senate Thursday an attack on heroin from multiple fronts - aid expected to spread to Kentucky and Indiana.
The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) targets heroin, fentanyl and prescription opioid traffickers by bolstering local drug tasks forces.
CARA also enfolds the addict through enhanced early intervention and treatment.
And for those who overdose on heroin or opioids, the bill calls for the expansion ofnaloxone, an easy-to-use antidote.
“There’s been a lot of discussion about this bill from law enforcement, harm reduction to the treatment world," said Van Ingram, executive director of the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy. “One of the nice things this bill does is sets some standards around treatment.”
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) and U.S. Senator Joe Donnelly (D-Indiana) pushed for the bill, which now must gain approval in the House. Both said their home states would directly benefit from the bump in targeted law enforcement and recovery efforts.
"We know that heroin and prescription opioid addiction devastates communities, destroys families, and claims thousands of lives each year," McConnell said Wednesday on the Senate floor. "But we also know there are steps we can take here in the Senate that can help heal our nation."
Donnelly, a Democrat from Northern Indiana, proposed an amendment that passed Wednesday encouraging police, EMS and other first-responders who treat overdose patients with naloxone to link the patient with services through an outreach coordinator. The overdose patient would be asked to meet for an in-person follow-up to connect them with treatment or other services, Donnelly said.
One person in the U.S. dies every 25 minutes from a heroin or opioid overdose, Donnelly said. Nationally, these deaths now outnumber fatal auto accidents.
CARA is an authorization bill facilitating access to grants for treatment, education, prevention and recovery and focusing on newborns of addicts and veterans. The bill currently doesn't provide new money, but McConnell and Donnelly said millions will be added during the appropriate stage.
WTCA: Donnelly Provisions to Combat Opioid Abuse Signed Into Law (July 2016)
By: Kathy Bottorff
Several of U.S. Senator Joe Donnelly’s bipartisan provisions became law as part of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) that President Obama signed Friday evening. Donnelly’s provisions signed into law were adopted from his bipartisan legislation to update best prescribing practices and raise public awareness, as well as a bipartisan provision he authored that would encourage first responder units to connect individuals who receive naloxone with treatment or other necessary services.
Donnelly said, “Meaningful, bipartisan legislation to address the opioid abuse and heroin use epidemics is now law. It will help save lives and make a difference for families and communities in Indiana and across our country. This law is an important step forward and it demonstrates the kind of progress we can make when we work together.”
CARA will provide states and local communities with important tools to prevent and treat drug addiction and support individuals in recovery. Donnelly believes CARA is an important step, but it’s also necessary to fund programs and initiatives to combat the opioid abuse epidemic. He said during a Senate floor speech earlier this month, “Make no mistake, there is work left to do to ensure that our communities have the resources and funding to implement many of these important programs.”
Background on Senator Donnelly’s work to combat the opioid abuse and heroin use epidemics:
For more than two years, Donnelly has been working to address the opioid abuse and heroin use epidemics in Indiana and across the country. He has listened to Hoosiers, introduced bipartisan legislation, partnered with federal, state, and local officials, and brought together stakeholders.
After Donnelly introduced bipartisan legislation with Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) in June 2014 that would take a multi-pronged approach to addressing these epidemics, including to update best practices for pain management and prescribing pain medication, Congresswoman Susan Brooks (IN-05) helped introduce similar legislation in the House.
Donnelly and Brooks have held two roundtables on the opioid abuse epidemic: the first in September 2015, with federal, state, and local public health officials, doctors, and pharmacists to discuss the role providers play in helping to address the opioid abuse problem; the second in April 2016, with Indiana University School of Medicine (IUSM) doctors, professors, faculty and medical residents, to learn more about IUSM’s efforts to educate and train medical students, residents, and current physicians on best prescribing practices, pain management, substance abuse, and treating addiction.
In June 2016, Donnelly held a roundtable in Northwest Indiana focused on drug abuse prevention efforts with federal, state, and local officials to discuss federal and local partnerships and programs that are at work.
NWI Times: Federal drug task force expanding into LaPorte, Marion counties (October 2016)
By: Joyce Russell
Fighting the flow of illegal drugs into the Region just got a boost.
LaPorte and Marion counties have been added to the Lake County High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area. The HIDTA designation from the federal Office of National Drug Control Policy will allow those two counties, along with existing members Lake and Porter counties, to access federal resources to combat drug operations and increase enforcement.
Created by Congress in 1988, the HIDTA task force program serves as a catalyst for coordination among federal, state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies operating in areas determined to be critical drug trafficking regions of the United States. Law enforcement organizations working within HIDTAs assess drug-trafficking issues and design specific initiatives to decrease the production, transportation, distribution and chronic use of drugs and money laundering.
LaPorte County Sheriff John Boyd called the inclusion of LaPorte County in the HIDTA task force “huge.”
“This was one of the most rigorous processes we ever went through,” he said, adding they submitted their application, which also includes LaPorte police, Michigan City police and the LaPorte County prosecutor, on Jan. 1, 2015.
“We have a significant drug problem in LaPorte County. We can’t do it locally; we need to fight it from a regional standpoint. We know the drugs are coming from Chicago,” he said, adding the interstates and rail allow dealers easy access to the Region.
“We will be able to pool intelligence and strategies, run investigations together and be joined by federal and state agencies,” said Boyd, adding those involved are holding a news conference in late October to address the HIDTA designation.
David Capp, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Indiana, said LaPorte County is the logical extension in efforts to “try to impact and disassemble drug trafficking” in the Region.
“We have a longstanding relationship with LaPorte County, and this will only enhance that relationship,” said Capp, adding HIDTA has a very effective intelligence center and bringing LaPorte and Marion counties into the fold will bring more information that can be assessed and analyzed.
Capp said while Marion County is not contiguous, it is a part of the reality of drug trafficking in the state, and will allow all parties to better coordinate efforts.
“This is tremendous for law enforcement. This has been discussed for more than a year,” said Porter County Sheriff Dave Reynolds. Porter County was added in 2011.
“Especially the addition of LaPorte County from our perspectives. We know the drugs are coming from Chicago, and then to Lake and Porter and LaPorte counties. This will allow us to solidify our efforts. We will be a stronger organization with LaPorte County,” Reynolds said.
“A lot of drugs and gangs are going down 65 to Marion County. We know there is a direct connection, so it makes perfect sense to add Marion County,” he said.
“I am proud to have worked since day one to secure and support a federal HIDTA designation for Lake County, and the subsequent addition of Porter County. I am pleased today that by expanding the Lake County HIDTA to include LaPorte and Marion counties, we will be able to further improve our ability to regionally coordinate federal funding and intelligence resources to address the transportation corridors of drug traffickers and keep our communities safe,” said U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky in a written statement.
“As Indiana, and our country, fight the drug epidemics that are devastating families and communities, I was proud to support LaPorte County in applying for this designation that will bring resources to help law enforcement combat drug trafficking,” said U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly in a written statement.
Donnelly said it will take cooperation at every level of government, along with community partners, to provide a comprehensive response to the drug epidemic by rooting out drug traffickers, expanding prevention efforts and increasing access to treatment and recovery services.
WBIW: Senator Donnelly Helps Pass Critical Funding To Fight Opioid Abuse (December 2016)
Wednesday, U.S. Senator Joe Donnelly helped the Senate pass the bipartisan 21st Century Cures Act, which includes $1 billion over the next two years to help combat the opioid abuse and heroin use epidemics.
Funding will be distributed to states to help them address these drug epidemics. In late November, Donnelly and several colleagues called for the Senate to pass this necessary, emergency funding to address these public health crises before the end of the year. The 21st Century Cures Act recently passed the U.S. House of Representatives with overwhelming bipartisan support and now goes to President Obama for his signature.
Donnelly said, "I believe it takes all of us working together to confront the opioid abuse and heroin use epidemics. I pushed for the Senate to pass this funding because it will provide critical resources for states to help fight opioid abuse. I am proud this legislation will soon become law, as it will help fund prevention and recovery initiatives across the country.
"In addition, this will legislation includes funding to spur medical innovation and support research to develop cures for diseases, such as cancer, diabetes, and Alzheimer's."
Over the past three years, as Indiana has been devastated by these public health crises, Donnelly has actively fought for both new efforts to help with prevention, treatment, and recovery and the funding necessary to support those programs.
This summer, Donnelly helped the Senate pass the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), which became law in July, authorizing a number of grant programs.
Several of Donnelly's bipartisan provisions became law in 2016 as part of CARA. His provisions were adopted from his bipartisan legislation to update best practices for pain management and raise public awareness, as well as a bipartisan provision he authored that encourages first responder units to connect individuals who receive naloxone with treatment and other necessary services. CARA also includes tools to prevent drug addiction and expands access to treatment and support for individuals in recovery.
In September, Donnelly helped the Senate pass short-term legislation to keep the government running, and it included $37 million in new funding to begin implementation of CARA. These funds are helping jumpstart four grant programs in CARA focused on prevention, treatment, and recovery.