President Trump Signs Cantwell Provisions to Combat Opioid Epidemic Into Law

Provisions crack down on illegal drug distribution, increase penalties on drug companies that fail to prevent their drugs from entering the black market; Washington attorney general, local law enforcement officials support legislation to strengthen fight against opioid epidemic; Nearly 650 Washingtonians died of opioid or heroin overdoses in 2017; more than 300,000 Americans have died since 2000

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, President Donald Trump signed bipartisan legislation to combat the opioid epidemic, including provisions introduced by U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) to hold drug manufacturers accountable for negligent and misleading distribution practices, into law. 

“This legislation couldn’t come at a more important time,” said Senator Cantwell. “This crisis is ravaging our communities, it’s impacting families, and we need to do all we can to help those on the front lines. That’s why I’ve been from Port Angeles to Spokane, from Southwest Washington to Everett, to talk about this issue and to try to provide the solutions that Washington law enforcement and communities want.” 

The SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act, signed into law today, includes provisions from Senator Cantwell’s Comprehensive Addiction Reform, Education, and Safety (CARES) Act, introduced in February with Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) and supported by a bipartisan group of 39 state and territory Attorneys General, to increase penalties on opioid manufacturers who fail to take reasonable steps to prevent their drugs from entering the black market. 

“As I’ve traveled through our state, I’ve heard about how our communities have been flooded with these drugs,” Cantwell continued. “That’s why we are bumping these fines and penalties up for those who don’t do their job in tracking the distribution of these drugs.” 

“Opioids are having a devastating impact on Washington families. I applaud Senator Cantwell’s efforts and leadership in making sure we increase penalties against opioid manufacturers when they violate the law,” said Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson. 

The legislation also contains several other priorities for Cantwell that will: 

Crack Down on Illegal Drug Distribution:

  • Increases civil penalties on manufacturers and distributors of opioids that fail to report suspicious orders for opioids or fail to maintain effective controls against diversion of opioids by ten times, from $10,000 to $100,000;
  • Increases criminal penalties for failing to maintain effective controls against diversion of opioids from $250,000 to $500,000;
  • Authorizes grants to state law enforcement agencies to help locate and investigate illegal distribution of opioids, heroin, fentanyl, or carfentanil;
  • Authorizes $280 million for the High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Program (HIDTA), which provides assistance and coordination between federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies whose jurisdictions are in major drug-trafficking areas throughout the country.

 Increase Funding and Resources for Opioid Treatment:

  • Provides permanent authority for qualified physicians to provide Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) for up to 275 patients;
  • Expands the ability of health providers to use telehealth services to treat people with opioid use disorder;
  • Authorizes $75 million for the Drug Court Program, which has helped reduce substance abuse and criminal recidivism among non-violent offenders;
  • Authorizes $46 million in grants to help prevent fatal overdoses and train first responders about safe practices for dealing with fentanyl and carfentanil to protect them from exposure to these deadly drugs and prevent fatal overdoses;
  • Allows Medicaid to cover more substance abuse treatment beds for up to 30 days, while preserving the ability of states to use existing Medicaid waivers to provide such coverage.

 Support New Research and Treatment Alternatives: 

  • Authorizes $5 million a year to support hospitals and other acute care facilities that manage pain with alternatives to opioids;
  • Requires the study of the impact of federal and state laws limiting the length, quantity, or dosage of prescription opioids;
  • Reauthorizes the State Targeted Response (STR) grants, originally funded in the 21st Century Cares Act, which have provided more than $43 million to Washington state for opioid treatment and prevention programs. 

“I appreciate the fact that Senator Cantwell listened to law enforcement concerns regarding the issue of opioid abuse and addiction,” said Pierce County Sheriff Paul Pastor. “She understands the links between domestic over-production, increased levels of addiction, and drug trafficking. She understands the damage caused to communities and the burdens and dangers faced by first responders. Most of all, I appreciate that she stepped forward to develop legislation aimed at strengthening local, state, and federal efforts to deal with the problem.” 

Throughout the United States, opioid sales nearly quadrupled between 1999 and 2014, and by 2012, 259 million opioid prescriptions were being written each year. The massive surge in opioid consumption has also led to increased usage of heroin, with studies showing that nearly 75% of new heroin users become addicted by using prescription opioids. 

“This legislation will provide much needed-funding and resources to help us address the opioid issues impacting our communities,” said Spokane Chief of Police Craig Meidl. “This epidemic requires a multi-pronged strategy to be effective, and the approach taken through these provisions sets a course for successful outcomes.” 

The opioid and heroin epidemic has devastated communities across the country. Since 2000, more than 300,000 Americans have died from opioid or heroin overdoses. One hundred forty-five people fatally overdose on opioids or heroin each day, and nearly 650 Washingtonians and 50,000 Americans died of an opioids overdose in 2017 alone. The epidemic also has a significant economic impact, costing the United States at least $78 billion every year. 

“In the Tri-Cities we continue to combat the opioid crisis that has taken and destroyed lives, hurting families and loved ones as well as impacting families,” said Kennewick Chief of Police Ken Hohenberg. “In Kennewick we are part of the National Opioid Mapping process.  Senator Cantwell continues to be a strong advocate for individuals, families, law enforcement and our community.  This is an important component of addressing the issue and we are so appreciative.” 

President Trump’s signing of the legislation comes as Senator Cantwell continues her leadership in the fight against the opioid crisis. In December of 2016, Senator Cantwell supported the 21st Century Cures Act, which provided over $1 billion in new federal funds to combat the opioid epidemic, including more than $23 million in funding for Washington state over two years. In February 2018, Cantwell introduced the CARES Act to hold opioid manufacturers accountable for misleading advertising and negligent distribution practices. Later that month, Cantwell joined a bipartisan group of colleagues to introduce CARA 2.0, a comprehensive bill to increase funding for programs providing opioid education, treatment, and recovery. 

“The negative impact of opioids on our communities has been significant and through Senator Cantwell’s support and leadership on this issue, we will see increased accountability for manufacturers and distributors of opioids, as well as more funding and resources for treatment and research,” Everett Police Chief Dan Templeman said. “This bill represents a measured and balanced approach that will positively impact communities across the country who have been dealing with the impacts of the opioid crisis for years.” 

Cantwell has also been a fierce defender of the Medicaid program and Washington state’s successful Medicaid expansion, which has opened up substance abuse treatment to more than 30,000 Washingtonians. 

A full list of Senator Cantwell’s provisions and priorities included in the legislation signed into law today is available HERE.

Video of Senator Cantwell speaking on the Senate floor about this legislation is available HERE.