Washington (July 27, 2023) – Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Subcommittee on Primary Health and Retirement Security and a member of the U.S. Commission on Combating Synthetic Opioid Trafficking, released the following statement today following the Senate passage of his bipartisan and bicameral Department of Defense Overdose Data (DOD) Act as part of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA):

“The overdose crisis is hitting every community, in and out of uniform. In the last five years, hundreds of service members have died from overdose, yet these incidents were reported to Congress only after I launched an investigation demanding data from the Department of Defense. For too long, service members and grieving families have been asking for help—now, the DOD must respond. The bipartisan and bicameral DOD Act will guarantee transparency and accountability for military members and military families. Today is a victory for protecting those who protect us.”

Specifically, the DOD Act language which passed the Senate today would require the Department of Defense to:
  1. Report annually on service member and military family overdoses and related data, including demographic data, substances involved, number of intentional overdoses, whether or not service members were prescribed naloxone before a non-fatal overdose, previous prescriptions, co-morbid mental health diagnoses, previous overdose history, referral to treatment, participation in treatment, history of positive drug tests, analysis of discernible patterns in overdoses, existing and anticipated response efforts, access to treatment, and available treatment programs, and;
  2. Develop a new standard for the distribution of naloxone or other medication for overdose reversal, opioid disposal materials, fentanyl test strips, and other materials to prevent or reduce overdose, substance use disorder (SUD), or other impacts of substance use.
Earlier this month, language from the DOD Act passed in the House of Representative’s companion NDAA. Last September, Senator Markey led his colleagues in an investigation into fatal overdose deaths among active duty U.S. service members. He later revealed to the public for the first time that the Department of Defense reported 322 fatal overdoses among active duty service members between 2017 and 2021, and as many as 14,961 non-fatal overdoses from 2017 to the present. Of those fatal overdoses, 174 involved fentanyl, 54 of which occurred in 2021. From 2017 to 2021, 31 fatal overdoses occurred at Fort Bragg alone. 

In May, Senator Markey and his colleagues reintroduced the Stop Fentanyl Overdoses Act to empower the nation’s public health response against the opioid epidemic. Earlier that month, he celebrated the bipartisan passage of the Pharmacy Benefit Manager Reform Act through the Senate HELP Committee, which included language from his Naloxone Affordability Act to require the Government Accountability Office to conduct a study on actions that may be taken to protect access to naloxone, medicine which can reverse a deadly opioid overdose, and to report on out-of-pocket costs and insurance coverage for the medicine. Senator Markey also led five of his colleagues in a letter to the Biden administration urging federal health officials to make key pandemic-era telehealth flexibilities permanent for SUD treatment and care. 

In March, he and his colleagues introduced their bipartisan and bicameral Modernizing Opioid Treatment Access Act to improve access to methadone, a SUD medication treatment, by modernizing outdated rules. In December, Senator Markey secured provisions of his bipartisan Opioid Treatment Access Act (OTAA)—legislation that reduces wait times for patients qualifying for methadone medication treatment and expands access to methadone clinics—into the end-of-year omnibus spending package. That same month, the Department of Health and Human Services announced it would remove barriers to SUD treatment, such as allowing people to take home doses of methadone medication, which are key provisions included in the OTAA.