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Opioid Addiction Bill Sent to Obama

The U.S. Senate has joined the House in passing the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, the major bill this year in Congress aimed at fighting opioid addiction. But while it creates new programs, it is not funded.

The legislation is considered a major step to help cities and states combat the nationwide epidemic of opioid addiction. The measure would expand access to treatment by allowing nurses and physician assistants to administer medication such as Suboxone.

It will eventually provide grants to help pay for treatment programs, but the approximately $900 million called for by the legislation is not in the bill and will have to be appropriated after Congress returns from its seven week vacation.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree of Maine’s 1st District says she is concerned.

“Well there are plenty of good provisions in CARA, but without the funding, it won’t go as far as it should. And particularly for states like Maine, where the state is really struggling to have sufficient funding to cover treatment, the kinds of things that people need,” she says.

Pingree serves on the House Appropriations Committee and she says there has been no commitment from House leaders to bring up the funding bill in September. She and other members of Congress are worried it will be put off until after the elections.

Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, who serves on the Senate Appropriations Committee, says the hold up on passing spending bills is in the House. She’s more confident the money will be forthcoming.

“I am very optimistic that the appropriations bill will provide the funding that is needed to implement the comprehensive bill that we passed today,” she says.

Collins says in addition to the funding for CARA, there is money to address the opioid crisis in other spending bills. If all of them pass, Collins says there will be significantly more funding to address the nationwide epidemic than there was this year.

President Barack Obama has said he bill is not enough to address the crisis, but says he will sign the measure.

Journalist Mal Leary spearheads Maine Public's news coverage of politics and government and is based at the State House.