Senate Passes Sweeping Legislation to Combat Opioid Crisis

WASHINGTON, DC – Yesterday, the U.S. Senate overwhelmingly passed legislation known as the Opioid Crisis Response Act of 2018 to further address the enduring epidemic affecting every state and nearly every community across the nation. U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan (R-AK), a longtime champion for combatting the opioid addiction crisis, applauded the efforts to produce the bipartisan package – which included provisions from more than 70 U.S. Senators across five separate committees.

“Yesterday, the Senate overwhelmingly passed milestone legislation to further combat the opioid crisis and help some of the most vulnerable in our communities,” said Senator Sullivan. “Last year, more than 72,000 Americans died from drug overdoses -- the highest rate ever. Addressing this crisis – one of the greatest public health risks we’ve seen in a generation – continues to be a top priority of mine and so many others. As we all know, addiction does not discriminate. It affects everyone, and it’s essential that we get Alaskans the help that they need. It’s imperative that the federal government addresses this crisis with the sense of urgency it requires, which includes both funding for states like Alaska that have been hit hardest by this drug crisis and associated crime wave but also the necessary policy changes to support prevention, treatment and recovery. This legislation – which has an important focus on rural and remote communities – represents significant progress towards supporting those on the front lines and helping combat the scourge of drug abuse, addiction and crime.”

The Opioid Crisis Response Act of 2018 takes important steps to reduce illegal drug use and its supply chain – including legislation known as the STOP Act to help stop synthetic drugs from entering the country through the U.S. Postal Service and the reauthorization of the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area program. The bill also assists states in addressing substance use disorders, supports in-school and early childhood education programs, and works to improve access to treatment, health professionals, long-distance care, and recovery housing, among other things.

The legislation builds off previous efforts to assist in battling the opioid epidemic, including the passage of both the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) in 2016 and the Fiscal Year 2018 Omnibus Appropriations bill in March which included $4.7 billion to fight the opioid crisis ($1 billion in grants to states). Ongoing efforts include the Senate passage of the Fiscal Year 2019 Health and Human Services Appropriations bill, which contains $3.8 billion to help combat the opioid crisis.

Provisions in the Opioid Crisis Response Act of 2018 championed by Senator Sullivan:

  • 21st Century Cures Act Funding Extension – Reauthorizes and improves the state targeted response grants from the 21st Century Cures Act to provide funding to Tribes and to improve flexibility for states in using the grants. Includes language championed by Senator Sullivan for a 5% set aside for funding made available through the Act to tribe and tribal organizations. Also provides resources for tribes, including outreach and technical assistances, to encourage grant application participation.
  • Opioid Addiction Recovery Fraud Prevention Act – Includes legislation cosponsored by Senator Sullivan aimed at protecting individuals with opioid use disorder and their families from harmful and misleading addiction treatment programs or products. The provision will hold fraudulent substance abuse treatment programs and recovery centers accountable by empowering the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and state attorneys general to bring enforcement actions to combat such scams. For more information, click here.
  • Synthetics Trafficking and Overdose Prevention (STOP) Act – Includes legislation cosponsored by Senator Sullivan to help stop dangerous drugs like fentanyl and carfentanil – primarily from China – from being shipped through the postal system drug by traffickers here in the United States, particularly important to addressing the major influx of drugs entering remote Alaskan communities.


A section by section of The Opioid Crisis Response Act of 2018 can be found here.

Background on Senator Sullivan’s Work to Combat the Opioid Epidemic:

  • October of 2015 – Eight Alaska women who struggle with addiction visit Senator Sullivan in his Washington, DC office and serve as the inspiration for the 2016 Alaska Wellness Summit: Conquering the Opioid Crisis.
  • July 13, 2016Sullivan helps champion passage of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), legislation to combat the opioid epidemic across the nation, including Alaska.
  • August 4, 2016 – Sullivan convenes the Alaska Wellness Summit: Conquering the Opioid Crisis, dedicated to conquering the opioid and heroin epidemic scourging our nation and great state of Alaska. Speakers included: U.S. Health and Human Services Deputy Secretary Mary Wakefield, Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, top-level U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs officials, and esteemed Alaskans will be participating and speaking.
  • December 7, 2016Sullivan supports critical passage of the 21st Century Cures Act, which included $1 billion over two years for states to combat the opioid crisis, along with other priorities.
  • April 25, 2017 – Sullivan invited to attend small, bipartisan group leaders at the White House for a meeting with the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis, chaired by Governor Chris Christie (R-NJ).
  • October 26, 2017 – Sullivan attends White House for President Trump’s announcement declaring the opioid crisis a public health emergency.
  • February 27, 2018 – Senator Sullivan joins seven of his Senate colleagues in authoring and introducing the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) 2.0 Act, bipartisan legislation to increase the funding authorization levels for the CARA programs enacted in 2016 and put in place additional policy reforms to help combat the opioid epidemic. Many provisions included in this legislation were adopted in the Opioid Crisis Response Act of 2018.
  • May 5, 2018 – Alaska Congressional Delegation welcomes a critical announcement by the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) designating areas surrounding Anchorage, Fairbanks, and Juneau as High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA). Declaration represents the first new regional HIDTA program since 2001 and made Alaska the 50th state to be eligible for the federal grant program.
  • August 17, 2018 – Senator Sullivan convenes the Alaska Wellness Summit 2.0 – Confronting Alaska’s Crime Wave, a gathering of federal, state and local community leaders dedicated to tackling the many challenges associated with the growing opioid and heroin epidemic. The summit was attended by top state and federal officials, including the Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy Jim Carroll.