Addiction Treatment Bill Moves to Senate with Lump-Sum Authorization

The Senate Judiciary Committee has marked up and moved the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), S.524, a bipartisan bill to bolster community-based efforts at helping addicts.

Going into the markup, the bill carved out small authorizations for several strategies. The committee opted to redline that version, strike out those amounts, and include a single authorization of $77.5 million for the entire bill. [Click here to read the bill as passed by the committee].

That could prove helpful as the bill moves forward, said Jessica Nickel, executive director of the Addiction Policy Forum.

“It’s a smarter move to lump it all together instead of pitting programs againt each other,” said Nickel, a former legislative assistant for CARA co-sponsor Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio).

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said at today’s markup that the bill was an empty gesture without money attached by appropriators.

“Just to authorize money, and not actually put money to spend, will do nothing,” Schumer said. “In addition to this great bill, we need to make sure that we have some actual money…theres an emergency here.”

Among the specified programs that could be funded through CARA:

  • Addressing abuse by pregnant or parenting females. The funding would provide support “for female offenders and their children in the same location to promote family permanence and self-sufficiency.”
  • Incentive grants for states to develop comprehensive opioid abuse response planning and implementation grants. Among the allowable interventions: Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment–a model that has shown promise with teens.
  • Developing treatment alternatives to incarceration.
  • Demonstration grants that allow existing programs to expand “the availability of medication-assisted treatment, with respect to the treatment of addiction in the specific geographical areas of such entities where there is a rate or rapid increase in the use of heroin or other opioids.”
  • Grants to communities for “programs designed to implement comprehensive community-wide prevention strategies to address local drug crisis in the area.”
  • Youth recovery services, to be dispersed to programs at designated recovery schools and those run by nonprofits.
  • Support for organizations that can raise awareness of, and make referrals to, treatment and support for addicts and their loved ones.

The bill would also prohibit the federal government from including any question on a student loan application about convictions stemming from sale or possession of drugs.

As Youth Services Insider mentioned earlier this week, the bill is moving at a time when heroin and opioid addiction has become a hot issue in child welfare. A recent investigation by Reuters examined the rise in babies born with heroin or opioid addictions. The increase in addiction has garnered media attention on the campaign trail as well.

The Reuters feature story, by Duff Wilson and John Shiffman, notes that federal legislation has required since 2003 that states develop a protocol for notifying child protective services about any child born with an addiction to drugs.

That requirement, the article states, has gone unheeded in most states. The Reuters piece has prompted an inquiry from the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.

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John Kelly
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John Kelly is editor-in-chief of The Chronicle of Social Change.