09.17.18

Peters Floor Remarks Supporting Opioid Crisis Response Act

Peters: “Young Americans coping with substance use disorders deserve every opportunity to recover, hold onto their future aspirations and lead stable and fulfilling lives.”

Peters: “We must continue working together at every level of government as we combat the opioid crisis with scientifically proven strategies, including for some of the youngest lives at risk.”

WASHINGTON, D.C. U.S. Senator Gary Peters (MI), spoke on the Senate floor today in support of the Opioid Crisis Response Act, bipartisan legislation to address the opioid crisis. Peters worked to include provisions in the bill expand access to medication assisted therapy (MAT) for adolescents and young adults. Below is video and text of his remarks as prepared for delivery:

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“Mr. President, our nation is suffering through a public health crisis. Our nation, our neighbors, our families, very few among us can say we have not been personally impacted by the opioids crisis. The scope is staggering. One hundred sixteen lives are lost every day to opioid overdose. One hundred sixteen sons and daughters, husbands and wives, siblings and parents who will never come home again. One hundred sixteen lives that ended decades too soon, lost every day.

“Substance use disorders do not discriminate. We feel this pain in every region of the country; urban and rural areas, red and blue states. We know there is no silver bullet that will end this crisis overnight, but we do know how to fight it together, and that is what we are doing today.

“Tonight, the Senate will pass the bipartisan Opioid Crisis Response Act and this body will show a unity of purpose that, frankly, I wish we could show more often. As this important bipartisan legislation came together, I worked closely with my colleague Senator Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia to make sure that our nation’s youth were not left behind.

“We know young adults are more than twice as likely to misuse prescription opioid pain relievers compared to adults. One in five high school seniors knows where they can easily get heroin. And the problem continues to accelerate. In Michigan the rate of opioid overdose deaths among youth under 25 has doubled since 2012. These are empty seats at the dinner table, classrooms and in workplaces.

“When tackling a problem this large, we need to follow the data and invest in what works, especially for adolescents and young adults. Health experts, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, recommend Medication-Assisted Treatment, or MAT, as the gold standard for opioid addiction treatment.

“While we need to continue investing in research, completed studies have shown that youth treated with MAT are more likely to reduce opioid misuse and injection drug use, continue their medical care and achieve long-term sobriety.

“The research we have on using MAT to treat adults is overwhelmingly positive and shows this course of treatment to be safe and effective, especially in comparison to the life-threatening risks faced by patients who go untreated. Research shows MAT has the power to cut the mortality rate of opioid-addicted patients in half, if not more. France instituted a strong MAT strategy in response to a heroin epidemic in the 1990s. The death rate due to overdoses there decreased by nearly 80 percent over the course of just 4 years.

“Substance use disorders are not a personal or moral failure. This is a public health crisis brought on by chemical dependency. We are fortunate that our doctors and researchers have developed medication that can help end dependency and save lives, and we must get it to the patients who need it most.

“It is troubling that many Americans whose lives could be saved do not have enough access to MAT. And it is devastating that American youth have hardly any access at all. Currently, only about one in 12 youth who need treatment for an opioid addiction actually receive it. A 2017 study found about one in four adults in treatment for heroin receive MAT. While this sounds low, for adolescents the rate is less that one in forty.

“Even for those fortunate enough to be in active treatment, MAT is not being used widely. Similarly, only one in eight adults in treatment for prescription opioids receive MAT. For adolescents, it is one out of every 250.

“That is why the Peters-Capito provisions in the Opioid Crisis Response Act are crucial. They will support the identification and development of best practices for treating opioid addiction among youth and point to MAT as a specific strategy.

“In addition, Senator Capito and I successfully added a related amendment to the appropriations bill that funds the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and recently passed the Senate. The amendment will require the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to submit a report to Congress on what steps it takes to support MAT. The agency specifically will also identify barriers they must overcome to get MAT to eligible youth.

“Young Americans coping with substance use disorders deserve every opportunity to recover, hold onto their future aspirations and lead stable and fulfilling lives. We must continue working together at every level of government as we combat the opioid crisis with scientifically proven strategies, including for some of the youngest lives at risk.

“An important step in this response is getting these provisions across the finish line. I urge my colleagues to act quickly to get this legislation to the President’s desk to be signed into law.

“I recognize these provisions are just a start, but we are losing 116 lives every day, and we need to save as many as we can, as soon as we can.”

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