U.S. Senate approves bipartisan bill addressing opioid, heroin epidemic

WASHINGTON D.C. (WRIC) — With the heroin epidemic escalating, the U.S. Senate passed a bipartisan bill aimed at combating the crisis. The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) bill authorizes $725 million in grants for states including Virginia and non-profits to craft new education, treatment and recovery programs.

The legislation also expands prescription drug monitoring programs tracking people receiving multiple prescriptions for painkillers. Studies show most people hooked on heroin start out abusing prescription drugs. Here in Central Virginia, VCU researchers find the statistics are alarming.

“You’re more likely to die of an overdose in this state than a car crash,” Assistant Professor of Healthcare and Policy Research Dr. Andrew Barnes tells 8News.

Prescription drug overdoses killed 728 Virginians last year. So far this year, there have been 50 overdoses in Chesterfield, 35 in Richmond and 30 in Henrico.

While the CARA bill passed overwhelmingly, Virginia Senator Mark Warner is worried about funding.  An amendment to that would have tacked on an additional $600 million in emergency funds for police and health professionals was rejected.

“We’ve got to make sure as well as we pass this legislation that we actually put additional resources behind it,” Sen. Warner said. “CARA is a good step forward, this bipartisan bill, but if we don’t fund these programs then we’re going to see, unfortunately, this type of drug abuse scourge continue all across Virginia and all across the nation.”

8News has been investigating this national epidemic. Did the FDA enable the epidemic? Catch our special 8News Investigation Friday on 8News at 11.

Before that, ABC’s David Muir will take an in-depth look at the heroin crisis in American on 20/20 starting at 10 p.m.

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