WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed H.R. 5046, the Comprehensive Opioid Abuse Reduction Act of 2016 (COARA), legislation introduced by Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.).

The bill creates a comprehensive opioid abuse reduction program at the Department of Justice, which would, among other things, provide vital training and resources for first responders and law enforcement, aid in criminal investigations for the unlawful distribution of opioids, and expand drug courts.

Additionally, the comprehensive grant program created by H.R. 5046 is fully offset, meaning it successfully directs funds to address the opioid epidemic by taking advantage of existing funding. The result is no net increase in spending authorizations and no additional burden on the American taxpayer, which is a responsible, good-government approach to the epidemic. 

Congressman Sensenbrenner: “Today’s passage of the Comprehensive Opioid Abuse Reduction Act is another important step forward in our fight against heroin and opioid addiction. It signals the seriousness of our national struggle with addiction, the need for immediate action, and the commitment of lawmakers to pass meaningful, bipartisan legislation. I’m optimistic about the future of this bill and the great good it will affect throughout the country.”

Background:

Addiction to opioids such as heroin, morphine, and other prescription pain medicines, has a devastating hold on this country. Between 435,000 and 1.5 million people in the United States currently use heroin, and an alarming number of them are younger than 25 years old. 

Between 2002 and 2013, national heroin deaths nearly quadrupled, reaching more than 8,000 annually by 2013. Beyond health care costs, other significant economic burdens are associated with opioid abuse, such as costs related to criminal justice and lost workplace productivity. In total, opioid abuse imposes an estimated $55 billion in societal costs annually. 

In Wisconsin, more than 800 overdose deaths occurred in 2015 – double the number of deaths from overdose in 2004. Between 2006 and 2011, the state experienced a 350 percent increase in heroin samples submitted to the Wisconsin State Crime Laboratory by law enforcement. In 2012, the number of heroin-related deaths jumped by nearly 50 percent and statewide data shows one quarter of Wisconsinites who abuse the drug began using when they were younger than 25 years old. Drug overdose deaths have increased 137 percent from 2010, with opioid related deaths increasing by 200 percent.