Dear Majority Leader McConnell, Minority Leader Reid, Speaker Ryan, and Minority Leader Pelosi:
On behalf of millions of American families and a coalition of organizations on the front line of the opioid addiction epidemic, we are writing to express our strong disappointment with the failure to include new mandatory funding in the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA). We believe that the $1.1 billion in new funding sought by the Executive Branch is a bare minimum of what is needed to help states tackle this urgent public health crisis. We are requesting that Congress fully appropriate this funding request in the 2017 budget and that these funds be spent as outlined in the Executive Branch plan.
The sharp increase in opioid addiction, caused by overexposure of our population to prescription opioids, has led to record high rates of opioid overdose deaths, rising heroin use, skyrocketing rates of infants born opioid-dependent and other health and social problems. According to the CDC, we are in the midst of the worst drug addiction epidemic in United States history. Our communities, our workforce, our children and our seniors are all suffering the devastating impact of this crisis.
Bringing the epidemic under control requires more cautious opioid prescribing- to prevent new cases of addiction. And it requires a rapid expansion of treatment capacity- to save the lives of millions who have become addicted. Since 1999, more than 200,000 Americans have died from a prescription opioid overdose and more than 50,000 from heroin. Until treatment is easier to access than pills and heroin, the death toll will continue to mount.
We note that you removed from CARA a measure that would have improved access to effective opioid addiction treatment after a Congressional Budget Office analysis determined it would increase federal spending. Yet you included in the bill an expensive handout for Purdue Pharma and other manufacturers of so called abuse-deterrent formulations (ADFs). ADFs are just as addictive as easily crushed opioids. The companies that make ADFs do not need financial incentives from the federal government.
The opioid addiction epidemic is a public health emergency. The interests of pharmaceutical companies and partisan politics must now take a back seat to public health.
We will not politely and patiently remain quiet as the situation continues to worsen. On August 31st, 2016 (International Overdose Awareness Day) hundreds of us will demonstrate our frustration at Fed Up! rallies across the country and on September 18, 2016 thousands of us will march from the Washington Mall to the steps of Congress at the fourth annual Fed Up! Rally. We will continue demonstrating, marching and demanding action for as long as it takes until you finally provide adequate financial resources to help bring this urgent public health crisis under control.