Washington, D.C. — Subcommittee on Health Chair Brett Guthrie (R-KY) delivered the following opening statement at today’s Health Subcommittee legislative hearing titled “Responding to America’s Overdose Crisis: An Examination of Legislation to Build Upon the SUPPORT Act.”
Excerpts and highlights below:
EXAMINING THE SUPPORT ACT
“Today we are here to examine the SUPPORT Act and how its implementation has helped increase access to prevention, treatment, and recovery services.
“Since the passage of the SUPPORT Act, there have been several efforts to address issues related to substance use disorder and drug overdoses, which include the Restoring Hope for Mental Health and Well-being Act and the HALT Fentanyl Act.
“This hearing will give us the opportunity to see what legislative solutions have been working and address any potential gaps.
“Earlier this month, we convened a field hearing in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, where we had the opportunity to hear from addiction experts to learn more about how policies from the SUPPORT Act have helped in the fight against drug overdoses and what more can be done.
“We heard heart wrenching testimony from Michael Straley, who lost his daughter, Leah, on Valentines Day a few years ago to fentanyl poisoning.
“Tragically, there are hundreds of thousands of stories, like Michael’s.
“In just the past two years, more than 200,000 Americans have tragically lost their lives to drug overdoses, driven by synthetic opioids, such as illicit fentanyl.
“In Kentucky, more than 70% of all drug overdoses are caused by illicit fentanyl.
“The evidence is clear that we have significantly more work to do to effectively curb historically high drug overdose rates, and it’s more important than ever that this Committee recommit to addressing this crisis.
“Key to ensuring success will be a focus on prevention efforts.”
SOLUTIONS TO HELP AMERICANS AND SAVE LIVES
“One example of legislation we are considering today would address the threat of Xylazine or ‘tranq,’ a tranquilizer routinely used for animals that is quickly becoming one of the deadliest street drugs.
“H.R. 1839, the Combating Illicit Xylazine Act, led by Representative Pfluger, would subject individuals who distribute this substance illegally to Schedule III penalties.
“To supplement this work, we are considering legislation that would allow federal funding to be used for fentanyl and xylazine testing strips in states where they are legal and help ensure access to all FDA-approved overdose reversal medications.
“Prevention, however, must also be coupled with policies that promote access to care to help those currently struggling with addiction.
“That’s why we are considering legislation today that will provide access to reliable care for vulnerable populations, including providing for medication assisted treatment for Medicaid patients and treatment services for foster care youth and for pregnant or post-partum women.
“Of note, H.R. 3892, the Improving Mental Health and Drug Treatment Act, will lift the IMD Exclusion for residential and in-patient services.
“The exclusion, which arbitrarily limits access to residential care to facilities with sixteen or fewer beds, has been a significant barrier to care for vulnerable populations.
“This includes homeless populations and children who are currently being boarded and treated in emergency departments for severe mental illness and substance use disorder, rather than being able to get care in a clinically appropriate setting.
“The legislation will ensure patients are receiving the most appropriate and comprehensive care to address their needs.
“Thank you to Dr. Burgess for your historic leadership on this important issue, and I look forward to moving this bill forward.
“We are also examining solutions that will promote long-term recovery and wrap-around services to support individuals’ journey to rehabilitate their lives.
“This includes my bill, H.R. 1502, the Comprehensive Opioid Recovery Centers Reauthorization Act of 2023, which reauthorizes the Comprehensive Opioid Recovery Centers program for five years.
“The CORCs program is responsible for providing wrap-around treatment and recovery support services, including workforce training, to individuals living in communities with disproportionately high drug overdose rates.
“I am proud of the early results of this program. I would like to thank Representatives Tonko, Bucshon, and Peters for their partnership on this issue.
“Before I close, I would like to touch on bills before us that would attempt to support the behavioral health needs of those moving in and out of the criminal justice system.
“There is more we need to do to address access to care for these individuals, so they can get the right care as they reenter their communities.
“We are looking at two proposals before us today in their current form.
“We need to ensure we don’t do massive cost-shifting from state spending to federal spending without first solving the problems at hand. We need to look carefully at the two bills today that do that.
“I look forward to identifying long-term solutions that are fiscally responsible and that empower states to provide access to care for incarcerated individuals.
“I look forward to continuing the process to reauthorize the SUPPORT Act and I thank my colleagues on the committee for leading on many of these bipartisan policies.”