Congress Passes CARA! ASAM applauds passage of historic addiction legislation

by master on July 20, 2016

July 13, 2016 – Today, the United States Senate voted overwhelmingly to pass the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA). The Senate vote follows a similar near-unanimous vote in the House of Representatives last week and will send the bill to the President’s desk for his signature. The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) joins other members of the addiction prevention, treatment and recovery community in celebrating the passage of this important piece of legislation and calls on Congress to fulfill its commitment to fund CARA fully this year.

“ASAM is thrilled to see CARA pass and we look forward to the President signing this bill into law,” said ASAM President, Dr. Jeffrey Goldsmith. “It has been a privilege to be a part of the process as Congress has considered how best to respond to the epidemic of opioid overdoses that has been ravaging our nation, our communities and our families. It’s not a perfect bill, and we still need Congress to act to fund it this year, but it is a major step forward to help promote prevention, expand access to treatment, and enhance crucial recovery support services. With adequate funding, we believe this bill will help save lives.”

CARA is a sweeping bill that came together over the course of several years with input from hundreds of addiction advocates. Its provisions address the full continuum from primary prevention to recovery support, including significant changes to expand access to addiction treatment services and overdose reversal medications. In particular, ASAM applauds the inclusion of these important policy changes:

  • Expansion of office-based treatment by allowing nurse practitioners and physician assistants to prescribe buprenorphine for opioid addiction
  • Authorization of grants to opioid treatment programs and practitioners who offer office-based medication-assisted treatment to expand access to naloxone through co-prescribing
  • Reauthorization of funding for the National All Schedules Prescription Electronic Reporting Act for states to improve or maintain a prescription drug monitoring program (PDMP)
  • Directing the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to develop recommendations regarding education programs for opioid prescribers, including which prescribers should participate in such programs and how often participation is necessary
  • Authorization of grants to states to expand evidence-based medication-assisted treatment in areas with high rates of opioid and heroin use
  • Authorization of grants to state substance abuse agencies to carry out pilot programs for non-residential treatment of pregnant and postpartum women
  • Authorization of grants to states to implement integrated opioid abuse response initiatives, including education of medical students, residents and other opioid prescribers, and expanding availability of medication-assisted treatment and behavioral therapy for opioid addiction
  • Expansion of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Opioid Safety Initiative, including a requirement that all VA opioid prescribers receive training on pain management and safe opioid prescribing

“Taken together, we believe these policy changes will have a meaningful impact on the opioid epidemic, and we are pleased that Congress was able to come to agreement on such a pressing public health issue for our nation,” said Dr. Kelly Clark, President-elect of ASAM. “However, we won’t realize the full potential of this important bill without the funding necessary to carry out the programs it authorizes.  We look forward to continuing to work with Congress this year to make sure adequate funding is made available for CARA to make a difference in the lives of those affected by this devastating disease.”

Highlights of the bill’s provisions for ASAM members can be found here.

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