Keating Calls for More Action During Testimony on Opioid Epidemic

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman William Keating, (9th District) said more needs to be done by legislators to battle the nation’s opioid epidemic while testifying Wednesday before the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Keating’s district includes four of the top five counties in the state by opioid death rate.

The Congressman, who represents the Cape and Islands, said he knows firsthand the effects opioids can have on families as he lost a cousin to an overdose and has another relative in recovery.

During the hearing, Keating said laws have been passed to take significant steps in the right direction, including the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act and $1 billion in funding included in the 21st Century Cures Act, but recent healthcare legislation proposed this year threatens that progess.

Before the Affordable Care Act was passed, an estimated 34 percent of insurance plans did not cover treatment for opioid use disorders and 18 percent did not provide coverage for any mental health conditions.

Obamacare requires insurance policies include the coverage and the expansion to Medicaid provides access to treatment for substance use disorders for 11 million low-income Americans.

“Efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act and cut funding for Medicaid place this coverage at grave risk,” Keating said in a prepared statement for the committee.

Keating is encouraging the house has come to a consensus that a solution to the crisis requires a multipronged approach.

“On this issue people are depending on us,” Keating said. “We need to create the urgency and deal with it ourselves. We can’t rely on other people to do it and in many cases are the court of last resort.”

He plans to reintroduce three pieces of bipartisan legislation to fight the crisis from different angles.

The Stop Tampering of Prescription Pills Act calls on the FDA to facilitate the creation of tamper-resistant formulations for commonly misused pain medication.

The Co-Prescribing Saves Lives Act encourages physicians to co-prescribe naloxone alongside opioids to make the overdose reversal drug more accessible. The legislation also authorizes a grants program to fund state-level efforts to encourage the establishment of co-prescribing guidelines, assist in purchasing naloxone, fund training for healthcare professionals and patients and cover co-pays.

The third bill, the Safe Prescribing for Veterans Act, aims to decrease opioid overuse among veterans by establishing a pain management education requirement for prescribers affiliated with the Department of Veterans Affairs.

“We can do this. We can work together and we can make sure it can be done,” Keating said. “But let’s do it ourselves and let’s take that leadership.”

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