Judiciary to Mark Up Treatment-Focused Heroin Addiction Bill

The Senate Judiciary Committee plans to mark up a bill on Thursday aimed at addressing “the national epidemics of prescription opioid abuse and heroin use.”

The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), S.524, has bipartisan support in the committee and sister legislation in the House. It includes a modest amount of federal support to bolster community-based efforts at helping addicts.

Among the ventures funded by CARA:

  • $5 million to address 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.”
  • $15 million in 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.
  • $5 million for government agencies to develop treatment alternatives to incarceration.
  • $12 million for 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.”
  • $5 million a year for $75,000 grants to communities for “programs designed to implement comprehensive community-wide prevention strategies to address local drug crisis in the area.”
  • $3 million per year for youth recovery services, to be dispersed to programs at designated recovery schools and those run by nonprofits.
  • $5.7 million per year to 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.

When it comes to child welfare policy, all attention is on the yet-to-be-written Families First Act, which would overhaul the IV-E foster care entitlement and limit federal spending on group homes.

But CARA is worth following. A recent investigation by Reuters examined rise in babies born with heroin or opioid addictions. The rise 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.

Click here for details on the CARA markup, which will likely be webcast.

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John Kelly
About John Kelly 1128 Articles
John Kelly is editor-in-chief of The Chronicle of Social Change.