President Obama quietly signed CARA, the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, into law Friday, July 22. There were no cameras at the signing of the bill. In a statement to press, the president said the law includes some “modest steps to address the opioid epidemic.”
CARA packages $181 million dollars into helping address the different aspects of the opioid/heroin epidemic that kills tens of thousands of people annually.
National vital statistics from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) recorded nearly 30,000 people died in 2014 from opioid/heroin-related deaths, with the Midwest having the highest rate of overdose deaths from opioids and heroin.
The law sets aside $25 million over five years to help communities create prevention programs for local drug crises, with an emphasis on areas where opioid and methamphetamine use is higher than the national average.
For reducing overdose deaths, $25 million will be spent over five years to establish and train health care workers and pharmacists in programs for prescribing drugs or devices for emergency treatment of overdoses.
To address prescription drug abuse, $50 million over a five-year time period will establish state-administered monitoring systems. The monitoring systems will help doctors share information in order to become better aware of patients who are at-risk for addiction based on past individual and family prescription history.
Additional funds in the amount of $60 million were set aside to train law enforcement and first responders in treating overdoses. These funds are awarded as grants from the Attorney General and are made primarily available to areas that have high incidences of overdoses and lack accessibility to treatment facilities.
The grants available to law enforcement may also be used to develop, implement, and expand treatment alternative incarceration programs, including training criminal justice agency personnel to identify substance abuse diseases and co-occurring mental disorders.
State and local governments, relating to opioid and drug abuse, may use funds in the creation of drug courts, mental health courts, veterans treatment courts, and substance-abuse diversion programs, and for focus on parents whose incarceration from drug abuse would result in their child entering the state’s welfare system.
“Every day, 78 Americans die from opioid overdoses. I have heard from too many families across the country whose lives have been shattered by this epidemic, including a mom from Ohio who recently wrote: ‘There are not near enough facilities in this area to handle the amount of care that is needed… We need help.’” said Obama.
But according to critics, including the president, CARA doesn’t have enough funding to adequately combat the heroin/opioid addiction epidemic. In the statement last week, the president called for Republicans to finish the job and provide adequate funding to deal with this public health crisis. In February the president said he wanted to spend $1.1 billion on addiction recovery and treatment over two years.
Reach Ashley at the Record-Herald (740) 313-0355 or on Twitter @ashbunton