Senator introduces new bills to increase treatment funding for states by $1 billion, ensure released inmates can access health care and treatment services

Calling for investigation of addiction treatment services, overuse of opioid pain medication in VA system

Washington (May 21, 2015) – In New England, 133,000 people are abusing or dependent on prescription drugs or heroin, while 70 percent of them need treatment but aren’t current receiving it. To address this urgent need for addiction treatment and recovery services in communities in Massachusetts and around the country, Senator Markey today introduced new legislation to vastly expand the funding and resources needed to treat patients addicted to prescription drugs and heroin. The Treatment and Recovery Investment Act increases funding for states so they can better assist individuals with substance use disorders, including pregnant or parenting women and adolescents. The second piece of legislation, the Supporting Positive Outcomes After Release Act, will prohibit states from terminating an inmates’ Medicaid coverage while they are incarcerated, a practice that often prevents individuals from accessing treatment in the critical days and weeks after release. Finally, Senator Markey joined with the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs ranking member Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) and the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs ranking member Rep. Corrine Brown (D-Fla.) to call on the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to investigate the availability of addiction treatment services and the overuse of opioid painkillers in the Veterans Affairs (VA) health system.

“If you are an addict and you need a bed, a doctor, a counselor, a group, even just a helping hand, you should have it,” said Senator Markey. “When treatment that is effective and affordable is made available, people’s lives can be saved. We need to a massive effort at the federal, state and local level to expand treatment and recovery services and get help to those who need it most. My legislation will increase the federal funds available to states and communities so they can expand treatment to wherever and whenever it is needed. It will also help ensure that released inmates have the coverage they need to get treatment when they reenter the community.”   

The Treatment and Recovery Act: 

  • Increases funding for the Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block grant, which is the cornerstone of States’ substance abuse prevention, treatment, and recovery systems. Unfortunately, this program authorization hasn’t kept up with inflation, decreasing purchasing power for the states dealing with the issue of opiate addiction. Senator Markey’s legislation sets the funding level at $2.27 billion and will ensure that the state block grant increases to keep up with inflation every year.
  • Creates a grant program specifically to fund treatment and recovery for opioid use disorders in states where there is high use or overdoses relating to prescription painkillers or heroin. This program is authorized at $27 million.
  • Provides more funding aimed to improving access and integration of primary care with substance abuse services for pregnant and parenting women. This program is authorized at $15 million.
  • Strengthens substance abuse and recovery services for adolescents, with a specific emphasis for increasing capacity of residential services for adolescents. This program is authorized at $25 million.
  • Directs investment towards the expansion of community-based recovery support services for individuals with substance use disorders. This program is authorized at $7 million

“ABH members are on the front lines every day across Massachusetts combating addiction,” said the Association for Behavioral Healthcare. “Unfortunately, the sad reality is that demand for treatment far exceeds available services.  Senator Markey’s bill is an important step to expand access to treatment for individuals and families struggling with addiction and to give providers the tools they needs to help clients achieve recovery.”

A copy of the Treatment and Recovery Investment Act can be found HERE.

Nearly 85 percent of prisoners in the United States either have a prior or present substance use disorder or committed a crime that was related to substance use. When many of these individuals return to the community after incarceration, their health care needs are great, but their ability to access coverage is typically poor because many states cancel Medicaid coverage for this population. Senator Markey’s legislation, Supporting Positive Outcomes After Release Act, prohibit states from terminating eligible individual’s Medicaid because of incarceration, and instead, with coverage only temporarily suspended, ensure access to health care services more quickly upon release. The legislation is co-sponsored by Senators Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio).

A copy of the Supporting Positive Outcomes After Release Act can be found HERE.


Senator Markey also today joined with Senator Blumenthal and Reps. Moulton and Brown to focus attention on the treatment needs of servicemembers in the VA system. Nearly one million veterans are estimated to take prescription opioids, and more than half use these medications chronically beyond 90 days.


“With the increased reliance on opioid painkillers, concerns have been raised about the appropriate treatment of chronic pain, the impacts of opioid overuse, overdose, and other adverse events among the VA population,” write the lawmakers in the letter to GAO. “In light of the high rates of chronic pain as well as opioid overdose rates and misuse among veterans, prescription practices for opioid pain medications and availability of alternative non-opioid treatment programs for pain management should be examined to ensure veterans are receiving the care needed while VHA addresses the risks associated with overuse of opioids.” 


A copy of the letter to the GAO can be found HERE.