Ayotte, Shaheen tout signing of Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act | New Hampshire
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Ayotte, Shaheen tout signing of Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act

July 22. 2016 10:11PM
In these images taken from video, New Hampshire Sens. Jeanne Shaheen, left, and Kelly Ayotte speak in favor of funding to combat the nation's opioid crisis. (IMAGES TAKEN FROM C-SPAN VIDEO)

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama on Friday signed into law a measure that pledges greater efforts to protect drug-dependent newborns and assist their parents.

The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act also stresses drug treatment and overdose prevention to help stanch the nation’s heroin and opioid drug epidemic.

Obama said in a statement that 78 Americans die from opioid overdose every day, and noted that the legislation included only modest steps to address the epidemic.

“I am deeply disappointed that Republicans failed to provide any real resources for those seeking addiction treatment to get the care that they need,” Obama said. “In fact, they blocked efforts by Democrats to include $920 million in treatment funding.”

The bill was passed nearly unanimously by both the House of Representatives and the Senate.

New Hampshire’s two senators who played major roles in the bill’s passage offered different perspectives.

Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-NH, was one of four prime sponsors of the measure along with two Democrats and fellow Republican Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio.

Ayotte, a former state prosecutor, stressed the achievement of getting bipartisan backing for such a landmark law on Capitol Hill in an election year where Congress has done very little on other major policy fronts.

“Today marks a critical turning point for the New Hampshire families, advocacy groups, first responders, and all those who have fought tirelessly against this devastating crisis,” Ayotte said. “CARA is such an important step in this battle, and I’ve been proud to work with my colleagues and so many incredible people and groups in New Hampshire for more than two years to get this legislation passed. Utilizing the programs and resources focused on prevention, treatment, recovery, and support for first responders that CARA provides, I know we will be able to start turning the tide of addiction and help save lives.”

But Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-NH, chastised her GOP colleagues for opposing her bid to add $600 million of emergency money into the bill.

CARA is an authorization to one day spend $181 million to battle heroin and other controlled drug addictions; but the actual money must be approved by Congress in separate bills and that’s at least two years away from happening.

“CARA is the product of hard work and negotiations, but while it’s progress, it unfortunately lacks the funding desperately needed by law enforcement and treatment professionals on the frontlines of this crisis,” Shaheen said in a statement. “There is simply no excuse for Congress providing billions in emergency funding for the Ebola and swine flu epidemics, while shortchanging the fight against an opioid epidemic that’s killing a person a day in the Granite State. I will continue to do everything I can to pass legislation to provide the long overdue funding necessary to stem the opioid crisis.”

Shaheen had earlier likened the bill to a “life preserver without any air in it.”

The Senate voted 51-47 for Shaheen’s emergency spending amendment well short of the 60-vote, super majority needed to adopt it.

Ayotte and Portman were among just a handful of Senate Republicans who broke ranks to back Shaheen’s bid.

The new law requires that the federal government and every state follow a 2003 law that was routinely ignored. That law called on states to require hospitals and social services to report, track and assist drug-dependent newborns and their families.

Most children born to addicted mothers, including many mothers who were taking prescribed methadone, were not being reported by hospitals as required by law. Often, that was because medical workers feared involving child protective services, as the existing law requires.

The new law promises a non-punitive approach that includes “safe care plans” aimed at keeping newborns at home with their parents, who will receive additional help.

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