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The NH Congressional Delegation Responds To Trump’s State of the Union Address

Last night, President Donald Trump delivered his State of the Union address to Congress.  The speech was full of self gratification and praise for the Republican tax bill that was forced through Congress, despite huge opposition from the American people.

The New Hampshire Congressional delegation responded to Trump’s State of the Union address. Below are the statements from all four of the NH Congressional Delegation.

Senator Jeanne Shaheen

“I appreciate the attention the President devoted to the opioid crisis in his remarks this evening, but words are not enough. I was proud to have Jeanne Moser, who tragically lost her son to a fentanyl overdose and has done so much to raise awareness about substance use disorders, as my guest to help highlight the urgent need for help in New Hampshire and across the country to respond to this crisis. The President must finally begin fulfilling his promise to deliver treatment resources. Over the past year, President Trump has only devoted lip service to respond to the opioid epidemic. Instead of any meaningful action, the Trump administration has made numerous attempts to undermine existing programs that have proven to be critical in battling this crisis in New Hampshire. I continue to stand ready and willing to work with the President to deliver these resources that are so needed. The urgency of this lifesaving effort cannot be overstated.

“The President was right to address the desperate state of our aging infrastructure. I believe this is an area where Republicans and Democrats can work across the aisle, and I encourage President Trump to deliver an ambitious plan to Congress that provides the resources to begin these critical upgrades and repairs. Granite Staters are becoming all too familiar with crumbling roads and bridges, and water and wastewater systems, that have far outlasted their intended use.”

In the days leading up to the President’s address, Shaheen distributed purple ribbons to her senate colleagues to wear during the State of the Union Address to raise awareness about the opioid epidemic and substance use disorders. To further bring attention to the opioid crisis, Senator Shaheen brought Jeanne Moser of East Kingston as her guest, who lost her son in 2015 to a fentanyl overdose and has advocated in the years since to bring awareness to substance use disorders.

As the lead Democrat on the Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee, Senator Shaheen has led efforts in Congress to combat the opioid epidemic. She recently introduced bipartisan funding legislation to prioritize states hardest hit by the opioid epidemic, including New Hampshire, and has consistently urged the Trump administration to consider bipartisan action as the public health emergency continues to devastate Granite State communities.

Senator Maggie Hassan

The Senator brought McKenzie Harrington-Bacote, who works as the Program Administrator for the Office of School Wellness in the Laconia School District, as her guest of honor for the President’s address.

“While President Trump touched on many important issues tonight, we’ve unfortunately seen this script before from the President – lots of big promises, but little action to back them up. Since taking office, the President has delivered huge giveaways to corporate special interests and the ultra-wealthy, but he has not come through for middle class families or for communities reeling from the devastating opioid crisis. That’s why what really counts is not his words, but what he does tomorrow and in the days that follow.

“I brought McKenzie Harrington-Bacote, who works to prevent substance misuse and support Laconia students impacted by the opioid crisis, as my guest of honor to the President’s speech in order to highlight the importance of getting more resources to those on the front lines of this devastating crisis. While I appreciate that the President spoke about the importance of stepping up efforts to combat this crisis, he once again failed to lead in calling for more federal resources to strengthen treatment, prevention, recovery, and law enforcement efforts. Struggling families and communities don’t need words, they need real help.

“The President also discussed the need to rebuild our highways, roads, and bridges, another issue where there could be real bipartisan common ground. As a member of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, I look forward to working in a bipartisan way to evaluate the Administration’s proposal and ensure that it would actually meet the needs of New Hampshire, not simply pass the buck to local communities.”

“No matter what the President says or does, I will continue to work with members of both parties to expand economic opportunity and support innovative businesses, step up efforts to combat the opioid crisis, and keep our country safe, secure, and free.”

Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter

“After his Joint Address last year, I said that President Trump had created deep divisions in our country and disregarded our shared values: tolerance for religious and ethnic diversity, freedom of the press, good health and opportunity for working families, the well-being of our beautiful planet, and the rule of law. That was only 40 days into his presidency. A year later, it’s clear that nothing has changed.

“The President needs to stop throwing red meat to his base and stink bombs to the rest of us if he wants to get anything constructive done. I was saddened and alarmed that the President used this opportunity to spout hateful and xenophobic rhetoric that is far from the uplifting image of America, the shining city on a hill.

“America is the greatest country on earth, but the constant lying, the scandals, and the dangerous policies coming from the White House do harm to our people and environment, imperil our democracy, and erode confidence in our institutions. He continues to endanger our national security.

“I am also deeply concerned about what President Trump did not say tonight. There was no roadmap to a better future. He did not ask Congress for emergency funding to combat the deadly opioid epidemic that is devastating our communities. And he did not ask Congress for new legislation to improve veterans’ access to quality healthcare or invest in VA medical centers. We need to find a way forward and pass a long-term budget agreement that fully funds critical national priorities such as infrastructure, health care for veterans, national security, our military, the opioid crisis, funding for community health centers, and disaster funding.”

Congresswoman Annie Kuster

“Tonight President Trump discussed several issues important to the Granite State, including efforts to take on the opioid epidemic and the need to improve our aging infrastructure. Unfortunately, it’s long past time the President put actions to his words on both of these critical issues. Declaring the opioid epidemic a national health emergency was the right thing to do, but without funding it’s a meaningless gesture. As the founder and co-chair of the Bipartisan Heroin Task Force, I’m working to make real progress on this crisis and just last week 50 members of the Task Force wrote to President Trump urging him to work with Congress to appropriate the funding necessary to bolster prevention, treatment, and recovery efforts as well as support law enforcement.

“We need to fix red listed bridges, aging roads, airports, railroads, and deteriorating infrastructure to create jobs, increase public safety, and boost our economic competitiveness in New Hampshire and across the country. Far too many people in New Hampshire lack access to adequate internet services, and any 21st Century infrastructure plan must expand broadband in rural communities. As I’ve learned, the devil is in the details and I will closely examine President Trump’s infrastructure proposal and look for opportunities to work across the aisle on behalf of all Granite Staters.”

Read the full SOTU transcript here

Video of the SOTU available here

Both New Hampshire Senators Voted Against Confirming HHS Sec. Alex Azar

Senators have reservations that a former “Big Pharma” executive will do anything to combat rising prescription drug prices and the opioid epidemic. 

Senators Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan both voted against confirming Alex Azar as the new Secretary of Health and Human Services.  Azar was ultimately confirmed by a 55-43 vote, mostly along party lines.

ABC News reports, “Six Democratic senators and one independent voted to confirm Azar: Democrats Tom Carper and Chris Coons of Delaware, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Doug Jones of Alabama, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, and independent Angus King of Maine.”

After the vote, Senator Hassan had this to say:

“Communities across New Hampshire and the entire country continue to grapple with the devastating opioid epidemic, but the Trump Administration has failed to lead, including by not calling for additional federal resources. I was disappointed that Mr. Azar would not commit to advocating for new funding during his confirmation hearing. Considering his tenure as a top executive at a major pharmaceutical company, I also continue to have serious doubts that Mr. Azar can be a leader in addressing the skyrocketing cost of prescription drugs. The Department of Health and Human Services needs a secretary who will focus on the health and well-being of hard-working Granite Staters, not someone who will continue the Trump Administration’s efforts to undermine our health care system, and unfortunately, Mr. Azar has not proven that he can be that leader.”

During Mr. Azar’s Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee hearing, Senator Hassan pressed the nominee (click here for video) on the need for additional funding to combat the opioid crisis and raised concerns about his commitment to lowering skyrocketing prescription drug prices given his close ties to pharmaceutical companies.

Prior to the vote, Senator Shaheen took to the Senate floor to voice her opposition to Azar, who has a lengthy record of increasing drug prices during his tenure in the pharmaceutical industry, and who has stated his intention to sabotage the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Shaheen underscored Mr. Azar’s alarming history as a pharmaceutical executive, where he opposed government regulations on prescription drug pricing and saw net prices of pharmaceuticals manufactured by his former company increase by double digit percentages. Shaheen highlighted how Mr. Azar’s big pharma ties and government hands-off approach threaten efforts to combat the opioid epidemic, referring to dramatic price increases for Narcan, the antidote that reverses opioid overdoses.

Shaheen also warned that Mr. Azar’s stated intention to dismantle the Affordable Care Act risks curtailing the opioid response, stating, “He apparently does not appreciate that the Affordable Care Act – the Medicaid expansion in particular – has been an absolutely critical tool in the fight against the opioid epidemic… As we all know, the opioid epidemic is a nationwide crisis, with some 63,000 Americans killed by drug overdoses in 2016.  But New Hampshire has been hit especially hard.  The demise of the Affordable Care Act, which Mr. Azar says he wants, would mean that thousands of Granite Staters would lose access to treatment, with devastating consequences.”

Through the Medicaid expansion, nearly 11,000 Granite Staters have gained access to treatment for substance use disorders.

Shaheen reaffirmed the need to put public interest and public safety above special interests, stating, “Between Mr. Azar’s coziness with the pharmaceutical industry, his disdain for the Affordable Care Act, which is the law of the land and which Mr. Azar would be charged with administering as Secretary, I think he is the wrong person to serve in the critically important post of Secretary of Health and Human Services.”

As the lead Democrat on the Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee, Senator Shaheen has led efforts in Congress to combat the opioid epidemic. Shaheen continues to fight for funding to combat the opioid crisis. She also recently introduced bipartisan funding legislation to prioritize states hardest hit by the opioid epidemic, including New Hampshire, and has consistently called on the Trump administration to take meaningful action as the public health emergency continues to devastate Granite State communities.

In Nashua, Kuster Discusses Healthcare Workforce Training and Addressing Substance Use Disorder

Congresswoman Kuster discussing the opioid epidemic at Rivier University

(Nashua, NH)— Today, Congresswoman Annie Kuster (NH-02), the founder and co-chair of the Bipartisan Heroin Task Force, met with the leadership of Rivier University’sCenter for Behavioral Health Professions and Workforce Development, which educates students in the fields of behavioral health and substance use disorder treatment. Kuster heard from Rivier officials and local healthcare leaders about the importance of the program for filling careers in the substance use treatment field, which is critical as the state addresses the opioid epidemic.  Kuster also discussed and received feedback on the Bipartisan Heroin Task Force’s 2018 legislative agenda and her upcoming workforce development legislative priorities.

“The Center for Behavioral Health Professions and Workforce Development at Rivier University is the type of innovative program that we should be promoting across New Hampshire and the country,” said Congresswoman Kuster. “It was great to hear about how this program is preparing students for fulfilling careers in the healthcare sector and helping to combat the opioid crisis by training people to work in treatment and recovery. It’s truly a win-win as we look to expand our workforce and improve access to services critical in taking on the opioid epidemic.”

“As a community we know too well that this is a national story, a regional story, and a state and local story,” said Sister Paula Marie Buley, IHM, President of Rivier University. “But most important are the stories of families and individuals in which the promise of life is cut short, and childhood dreams are abandoned. We return to the fundamentals of prevention, treatment and recovery.  The success of this work can be defined as an educated and competitively compensated workforce:  nurses, psychologists, public health professionals, school and mental health counselors.  The Rivier Center for Behavioral Health Professions and Workforce Development joins with [Congresswoman Kuster] in providing the foundation of committed and caring individuals who seek to create stories of success.”

“The Center for Behavioral Health Professions and Workforce Development at Rivier University is happy to host Congresswoman Kuster and this important discussion on the opioid crisis and her legislative agenda,” said Nadine Sacco, Executive Director of the Center. “Rivier is taking a leadership role in the development of a well-equipped workforce to combat this crisis. Our students are educated, credentialed and committed to addressing the need for treatment and recovery related services.”

Joining Kuster at the discussion were Nashua Mayor Jim Donchess; Sister Paula Marie Buley, President of Rivier University; Nadine Sacco, Executive Director of the Center for Behavioral Health Professions at Rivier University; Karen Schedin, Vice President for Enrollment Management at Rivier University; Lisa Vasquez, Substance Misuse Prevention Coordinator for the City of Nashua; Elyssa Clairmont, Continuum of Care Substance Misuse Facilitator for the City of Nashua; Geoff Vercauteren, Workforce Development Director at the Catholic Medical Center, and Rivier University students.

Joyce Craig Releases Plan To Address Opioids and Crime While Gatsas Plays Games With Voters

This week, the Manchester mayoral race ratcheted up a notch as Joyce Craig unveiled her plan to address the opioid epidemic and the current Mayor, Ted Gatsas, looks to score political points with additional funding to the ‘Safe Station’ program and a new solar power project.

On Tuesday morning, Joyce Craig released her plan to address the opioid crisis and crime in the city, titled “Safe Streets, Opioid Crisis, and Recovery Services Plan.” The plan includes important provisions involving early education, support for expanded Medicaid, and receiving support from the state.

“The opioid crisis is continuing to harm Manchester. Programs like Safe Station are vital to our response, but we need to be doing more. I believe we need a comprehensive approach including early education, prevention, peer recovery support, strong enforcement, and increased advocacy. As the largest city in the state, Manchester needs to lead the effort to combat the opioid crisis. As mayor, I will fight for state and federal resources and empower our community service providers to respond effectively. The safety of every resident of Manchester is my first priority, and my plan reflects the steadfast approach I will take to addressing opioid and safety issues in our city,” Craig said.

Although the city of Manchester has been making efforts to combat the opioid crisis, the problem is as severe as ever and remains a top concern for residents. This past September saw the most overdoses in Manchester in a single month with 147, and every month this summer saw increased overdoses from last year. Policies such as Safe Station are important, but more must be done if we want to see an end to this crisis.

Craig’s plan includes:

  • Continue regular ride-alongs with the police and fire departments to understand the challenges our community and first responders face
  • Develop and implement an evidence-based substance use prevention education program for schools and the community
  • Hold landlords accountable for problem properties where drugs are being sold and used and crimes are committed
  • Lead weekly interdepartmental meetings between the mayor, fire, health, police, office of youth services, the superintendent and key community organizations to ensure we are working together to comprehensively address the opioid crisis
  • Track and report outcomes based on funding to identify the most effective programs and improve services that combat the opioid crisis
  • Monitor indicators such as arrest data, emergency room admission rates, respite center admission rates and average wait time to identify key areas that need improvement
  • Compile citywide overdose data and utilize the data to identify and target interventions to reduce overdoses and overall opioid misuse
  • Establish partnership with the state to address this statewide problem. Over 65% of Safe Station entrants come from outside of Manchester, we need the state to recognize and invest in this program as a statewide resource
  • Advocate for resources from state and federal agencies that city departments and community service providers need to make a lasting difference in this fight, such as recovery housing throughout the state
  • Maintain a full police complement at all times to ensure resident safety
  • Support and advocate for expanded Medicaid. Without it, Safe Station would end and treatment options in Manchester would significantly decrease
  • Develop and implement a comprehensive plan to address chronic homelessness

In a surprising announcement yesterday, Mayor Gatsas and Governor Sununu announced additional funding for the ‘Safe Station’ program.

“I want to thank Governor Chris Sununu, Drug Czar David Mara, and Health and Human Services Commissioner Jeff Meyers for working with the City of Manchester to ensure the continued success of the Manchester Safe Station program. The immediate $150,000 commitment by Governor Sununu and his leadership team will assure the continuation of Manchester Safe Station and the programs in place to provide the services to Safe Station. I am confident that as we move forward we will secure additional funding for the future,” Gatsas said.

This announcement is surprising because it was Mayor Gatsas who opposed an additional $50,000 requested by Chief Goonan to be moved to Serenity Place as part of the Safe Station program in July of this year.

Gatsas is hoping that with today’s announcement people will forget about all of the times he opposed increased spending on the Safe Station program.

During her campaign for mayor, Joyce Craig has advocated on multiple occasions for state funding for Safe Station. Joyce recognized that Safe Station is a statewide resource in the fight against the opioid crisis and should receive support from the state.

In a written statement, Craig said, “This is good news for Manchester’s Safe Station program and those dealing with substance misuse. Safe Station has been a great tool to help people receive recovery services and I am thankful to our first responders for implementing this program.

Unfortunately, Ted Gatsas didn’t bother to take action to make sure Safe Station is recognized as a statewide resource until three weeks before his next election. I’ve advocated for state recognition for months and I am glad Mayor Gatsas decided to take my lead and ask for funding in Concord this week. We need a mayor who works for Manchester every day, not just in the weeks leading up to an election.”

Another example of Gatsas playing games with the people of Manchester is his new solar power project.

“The proposal consists of a twenty five-year power purchase agreement for solar energy and the construction of a solar array on Mount Manchester, also known as the former city dump, that will generate at least three mega watts of power,” reported Girard at Large.

In 2015, Gatsas killed a proposal that was fully supported by the Board of Alderman to install solar panels at the former landfill in Ward 12.

Craig called out this proposal for what it is, a half-baked idea to “score political points” with voters just prior to the election.

“It was clear from the presentation this evening that this proposal was nowhere near ready to be presented to the full Board of Mayor and Alderman. Although he acknowledged being aware of the issue for weeks, Mayor Gatsas failed to provide any information to the Aldermen until tonight. Mayor Gatsas is attempting to rush this issue through the board to score political points before the election. He should have followed the usual protocol and sent this to the city’s energy committee for proper vetting.”

Craig was also quick to criticize Gatsas for his failure to support a similar proposal in 2015.

“Manchester would already be realizing energy savings and revenue if Mayor Gatsas didn’t kill a fully vetted and approved solar project for the landfill in Ward 12 that was overwhelmingly supported by the aldermen in 2015.

I’ve been a strong advocate for renewable energy as an alderman and during my campaign for mayor. While I appreciate Mayor Gatsas is finally endorsing renewable energy, the city would have been better served had the mayor supported a fully vetted project two years ago. Manchester needs a mayor who serves the city every day. Unfortunately, Mayor Gatsas is scrambling to fix his record with rushed plans three weeks before the election.”

Kuster Leads Roundtable in Salem on Youth Opioid Education and Prevention

(Salem, NH) – Today, Congresswoman Annie Kuster (NH-02), the co-chair of the Bipartisan Heroin Task Force, lead a roundtable discussion at the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Salem on youth opioid education and prevention. The discussion, which drew an audience of community members, brought together local and state leaders addressing the opioid crisis and centered on the often overlooked impact of the epidemic on New Hampshire’s youth. Prior to the discussion, Congresswoman Kuster was given a tour of the Boys & Girls Club facility.

“The opioid epidemic is taking a toll on families and communities in every corner of our state,” said Congresswoman Kuster. “We know the impacts of the opioid crisis go beyond those suffering from substance use disorder, it extends to children and family members as well. We all have a role to play in tackling this crisis and I was pleased to have the opportunity to discuss programs aimed at protecting our youth with leadership at the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Salem, law enforcement, and educators.  I will continue working in Congress to strengthen education, prevention, treatment and recovery services for Granite Staters of all ages.”

“The Boys & Girls Club of Greater Salem wants to thank Congresswoman Kuster for having an important discussion regarding the impact that opioids are having in our community,” said Marco Abreau, COO, Boys & Girls Club of Greater Salem. “The opioid epidemic that is hitting our communities is an unfortunate reality for many of our Club members.  Many of our members are dealing with the cruel circumstances of their loved ones falling victim to addiction.  The task at hand is definitely a challenge, however the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Salem will not waiver as we continue to push forward in the support of all our members and their families.  Our mission states we will be here for the youth ‘who need us most’, and this holds true for the fight against the opioid epidemic.”

In June, the Bipartisan Heroin Task Force released its legislative agenda for the 115th Congress. The agenda includes the Stem the Tide of Overdose Prevalence from Opiate Drugs (STOP OD) Act, which authorizes up to $75 million in educational grants to prevent opioid abuse, and the Synthetic Drug Act, which requires the Surgeon General to submit a report to Congress on the health effects of the rise of synthetic drug use among young people aged 12 to 18.

New Hampshire has been on the front lines fighting back against the opioid epidemic.  New reporting from The Daily Beast showed that under the new GOP proposed healthcare plan, funding for opioid addition, recovery, and research would vanish.  The bill would slash Medicaid, which many claim is the biggest asset to fighting opioid addiction, as well as cut “$45 million” in addition funds earmarked for opioid treatment.

“Opioid addiction is taking lives and tearing apart families. But instead of fighting to address the problem, Republicans in Congress want to ram through this partisan bill to take away people’s health care and slash billions in funding for addiction treatment,” said Tom Perez, chair of the DNC. “Just over a month after calling the opioid epidemic a national emergency, President Trump has done nothing to help those affected. Now he’s leading the Republican charge to strip protections and resources from the working families who need them most.”

“This issue knows no party. From New Hampshire to Nevada, the opioid crisis has ravaged communities across the country. And without the Affordable Care Act, things will get even worse. Democrats believe that this urgent crisis demands urgent action. That’s why we will keep working to give families the resources they need to fight back. We cannot sit idly by while Republicans choose cruelty over compassion and destroy the lives of millions,” added Perez.

Congresswoman Kuster Leads Heroin Task Force To A Bold Agenda For Next Two Years

Bipartisan Heroin Task Force Releases
Legislative Agenda for the 115th Congress

(Washington, DC) – Today, the Bipartisan Heroin Task Force led by Representatives Annie Kuster (D-NH), Tom MacArthur (R-NJ), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), and Donald Norcross (D-NJ) released its legislative agenda for the 115th Congress. The agenda includes commonsense, bipartisan legislation to address the opioid epidemic from the perspective of law enforcement, prevention, treatment, and recovery.

The bills included in the agenda include Jessie’s Law, the STOP OD Act, the Addiction Recovery Through Family Health Accounts Act, Road to Recovery Act, the INTERDICT Act, the Synthetic Drug Awareness Act, the CRIB Act, and the VA Prescription Data Accountability Act.

Full details of the legislative agenda are available here.

“The opioid addiction epidemic is a crisis that transcends politics,” said Congresswoman Kuster. “We know that tackling substance use requires a comprehensive approach that takes into account law enforcement, prevention, treatment, and recovery. The legislative agenda we released today represents the commonsense approach that the Bipartisan Heroin Task Force is committed to pursuing. I’m proud to stand with my colleagues on the Task Force to announce this agenda and look forward to working across the aisle to make progress in addressing the opioid epidemic.”

“The opioid crisis has touched so many families and communities across the United States,” said Congressman MacArthur.  “It has always been my belief that we must find a balance between showing compassion for those suffering with substance abuse, while stopping the flow of drugs into our communities and those who profit from other people’s misery.  I believe our legislative agenda represents this balance and I’m grateful members from both sides of the aisle could come together on this critical issue.  The agenda released today is a crucial step in our fight against drug abuse.”

“Drug overdoses involving prescription opioids and heroin have nearly quadrupled since 1999 and are now the leading cause of accidental death. In my home state of Pennsylvania, drug-related deaths and opioid addiction rates were among the highest in the country – rising 20 percent in one year, including a 50-percent increase in my district alone. It’s clear this epidemic is destroying precious lives and costing us resources,” said Congressman Fitzpatrick. “Fighting back against this addiction crisis requires a multi-faceted approach and the bold, bipartisan legislative agenda laid out by the Task Force responds to the real-world concerns expressed by local lawmakers, community leaders and healthcare professionals across the county who endeavor to tackle this epidemic each day. Together, we can win this fight.”

“In Williamstown, NJ – a town in my district – the heroin death rate is nearly 25 times the national average. It’s tragic and unacceptable. We need to take collaborative, bipartisan action to help the people in Williamstown and every town around the country,” said Congressman Norcross. “Last year we saw the largest annual jump in overdose deaths ever recorded in our country – it’s clear we must cross party lines to curb the opioid epidemic. The Bipartisan Heroin Task Force is standing together to offer commonsense legislative solutions because one preventable death is too many.”

The co-chairs of the Task Force were joined in today’s announcement by Representatives Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), Markwayne Mullin (R-OK), Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), Evan Jenkins (R-WV), Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE), Keith Rothfus (R-PA), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), Tim Walberg (R-MI), Peter Welch (D-VT), Rodney Davis (R-IL), Tom O’Halleran (D-AZ), Brad Schneider (D-IL), Scott Tipton (R-CO), Tom Suozzi (D-NY), and John Sarbanes (D-MD).

Full details below.

170627_FINAL_Legislative Agenda

On The House Floor, Shea-Porter Pushes Amendment To Require Insurance Coverage Of Opioid Use Disorder Treatment

As Congress Debates Health Care Legislation, Congresswoman Highlights New Hampshire Heroin, Fentanyl, and Prescription Opioid Crisis 

WASHINGTON, DC Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter (NH-01) today offered and the House voted on a Motion to Recommit that would require association health plans to provide coverage for substance use disorder treatment. As Congress this week considers the American Health Care Act, which would cause 24 million Americans to lose their coverage, Shea-Porter called on her colleagues to work together to improve access to quality, affordable health care.

“Today, Members of Congress can say to my constituents in New Hampshire and their constituents across this great nation: we hear you. We know your sons and daughters, your nieces and nephews, your neighbors and friends are struggling, and we have your back,” said Shea-Porter. “We believe all Americans deserve good health insurance they can count on when they need it most. We aren’t going to pull the rug out from under people who are about to turn their lives around.”

Shea-Porter’s remarks highlighted the fact that much-needed treatment facilities, such as Hope on Haven Hill in Rochester, which she recently visited, have been able to open because more Americans now have insurance that covers treatment thanks to the Affordable Care Act and its Medicaid expansion. 

177 Democrats and 2 Republicans voted for Shea-Porter’s motion.

SHEA-PORTER’S FULL HOUSE FLOOR REMARKS

“I rise today on behalf of the families and communities across this nation that are confronting a public health threat of our time: the heroin, fentanyl, and prescription opioid crisis. 

“This motion would simply ensure that the health insurance plans that today’s bill would permit must still cover substance use disorder treatment, including for opioids, as an essential health benefit.

“Under current law, we require insurers to cover this treatment. Before the Affordable Care Act, many insurers either didn’t cover treatment at all or imposed onerous requirements that blocked people from getting needed care.

“H.R.1101 would roll back that guarantee. It would allow association health plans to return to the kind of skimpy coverage that left so many people struggling with an opioid disorder in dire straits at critical moments. We know there’s often a narrow window of opportunity — after an overdose, for example — for someone to commit to treatment, and these are the moments when being able to make a single phone call can make all the difference. 

“This week’s debate about health care is extremely important. Will we decide to work together to improve the American people’s access to quality, affordable health care or weaken benefits and kick 24 million or more of our constituents off their plans? We all need to speak up on behalf of those whose lives have been turned around because they can now access care.

“As I talk to families, medical professionals, and law enforcement officials in my district, I hear stories that highlight the dramatic impact that improved access to coverage has had in making treatment a real option for people with substance use disorder.

“This week, we see that base of coverage is under serious threat. In fact, experts estimate that repealing the Affordable Care Act’s coverage provisions would cause about 2.8 million Americans with a substance use disorder to lose some or all of their coverage.

“And the quality of that coverage is also at risk. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, insurance now must cover treatment for behavioral health and substance use disorder, just the same as it would cover any other medical service. These parity protections mean insurers must cover treatment for substance use disorder with comparable cost-sharing — no more surprises, like annual visit limits, higher copays, or frequent pre-authorization requirements and medical necessity reviews.

“Badly needed facilities are opening because plans now cover these services. I recently visited a recovery home for pregnant women and new mothers that was able to open its doors this year in my hometown only because it could rely on Medicaid expansion. Legislation like H.R.1101 would cause fewer people to have this coverage, meaning fewer facilities can open.

“Many of you know that my home state of New Hampshire is on the front lines of the heroin, fentanyl, and prescription opioid crisis. Our communities are struggling, and helping people get treatment is key to turning the tide. I have met the people who couldn’t be in a recovery facility without Medicaid expansion. 

“Today, Members of Congress can say to my constituents in New Hampshire and their constituents across this great nation: we hear you. We know your sons and daughters, your nieces and nephews, your neighbors and friends are struggling, and we have your back. We believe all Americans deserve good health insurance they can count on when they need it most. We aren’t going to pull the rug out from under people who are about to turn their lives around.

“I urge my colleagues to support this motion, which would not delay passage of the underlying bill. Thank you.”

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