Pascrell Heralds Opioid Bill Clearing Final Hurdle in Senate
WASHINGTON, DC – This week, the bipartisan Opioid Crisis Response Act of 2018 cleared a final procedural hurdle in the Senate and now heads to the President’s desk, where it is expected to be signed into law. The comprehensive legislation includes provisions authored by Representative Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ-09), and Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ) that will help providers in emergency departments and other settings implement best practices for utilizing alternative protocols and medications when opioids are not needed.
The provisions are from the bipartisan, bicameral Alternatives to Opioids (ALTO) in the Emergency Department Act, which creates a demonstration program to expand the innovative program at St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Paterson, New Jersey, and includes $10 million in funding to bring this rubric to life.
“The Senate’s passage of these critically important provisions to fight the opioid epidemic should serve as a beacon of hope for the millions of people across the country suffering from opioid abuse and countless others who are in its path,” said Rep. Pascrell. “While this crushing epidemic requires exponentially more work and resources, this legislative package includes many important provisions that will help reverse the tide, including the ALTO Act. Our ALTO legislation, modeled off a brainchild created at St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Paterson, New Jersey, will allow providers across the country to use alternative means to address common acute pain, while preventing unnecessary opioids from getting into patients’ hands. The need to take action on this pressing epidemic has been a long time coming, and I urge Donald Trump to swiftly sign this into law. What St. Joseph’s Hospital built in Paterson will soon be saving lives across America.”
Over 100 Americans die each day from opioid overdose and forty percent of these deaths involved a prescription opioid. In New Jersey, it’s estimated that more than eight people die from drug overdoses each day. The opioid epidemic is showing no signs of abating – the New Jersey Attorney General's Office estimates that drug deaths in the state could eclipse 3,000 this year, attributable almost entirely to opioids.
As a first line of defense against the opioid epidemic, emergency rooms are well positioned to be laboratories of new innovations to combat the crisis. Eager to try fresh approaches to address this epidemic, emergency departments in several states have adopted the ALTO model from St. Joe’s, which has drastically reduced the utilization of opioids. The ALTO model at St. Joe’s decreased opioid prescriptions in the hospital’s emergency department by more than 80 percent in its first two years alone.
In 2016, Pascrell, Booker and Menendez joined hospital officials for the announcement of St. Joseph’s ALTO program, as well as a roundtable discussion with health professionals and advocates to discuss ways to combat the nation’s opioid epidemic, which inspired the creation of this legislation.
As part of his ongoing commitment to end the opioid epidemic, Pascrell hailed the passage of his additional legislation he cosponsored, the bipartisan Synthetic Trafficking and Overdose Prevention (STOP) Act, which will help the Postal Service and federal agencies catch synthetic opioids at ports of entry before they enter our country. Pascrell has facilitated federal grants to local New Jersey coalitions to combat this scourge, including nearly $1.3 million for New Jersey’s law enforcement anti-opioids initiative, and $500,000 for Secaucus, Tenafly, and Hudson County to prevent youth opioid abuse. Pascrell has also been a staunch defender of the Affordable Care Act since its inception, which has dramatically expanded vitally-needed substance abuse treatment and prevention services for millions of Americans.