A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Sen. Rand Paul: Heroin, opioid epidemic felt in practically every corner of the country

When I’m meeting with Kentuckians all over the Commonwealth, it is troubling how often the heroin epidemic tops the list of their communities’ most pressing issues and concerns.

RAnd PAul

Sen. Rand Paul

It is a sad reality, and one you may already know, that the heroin and opioid epidemic has caused pain for communities all over Kentucky.  And the destruction of the drug use epidemic is felt in practically every corner of our country, from our smallest towns to our largest cities.

Kentucky sent me, a physician by trade for over 20 years, to Washington to diagnose the ills that afflict our country and provide solutions.  And I have been leading the fight to provide greater treatment opportunities for patients struggling with drug addiction.

As part of that fight, I introduced the bipartisan TREAT Act with Sen. Ed Markey. The bill calls for an increase in the number of patients a healthcare provider is allowed to treat with Suboxone, and gives states important flexibilities under the law.

Heroin overdose deaths in Kentucky are at a record high. Last year more people died from heroin in KY than from automobile accidents. And the prevalence of heroin abuse has pushed our available treatment facilities and care providers to the absolute limit.

Currently, opiate dependence treatments, like methadone and Suboxone, can only be dispensed at a limited number of clinics, as federal law limits the number of patients that doctors can initially prescribe narcotic drugs to for the purpose of addiction treatment to 30.

Under these current regulations, even if every doctor certified to prescribe Suboxone and other medication-assisted treatments provided it to the maximum number of patients, at least 1.2 million people suffering from opiate addiction would be unable to receive treatment.

These counterproductive and arbitrary rules sent down from Washington have left some addicts with limited treatment options – leaving them stuck in a cycle of dependency and hopelessness, a stark reality for the growing number of Kentuckians suffering with opiate abuse.

The changes I proposed in the TREAT Act would remove the federal government’s roadblock to getting people the help they need to break the cycle of addiction, and help them find a path to recovery – which is why I am extremely pleased with the progress we’ve made on this initiative to fight back against the heroin and addiction crisis.

Last week a conference committee of the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate reached an agreement on the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, which provides resources to prevent and treat opioid addiction, and includes key elements of the TREAT Act. Under that agreement, which has passed the House of Representatives and awaits a final vote in the Senate, many more people will be able to get the treatment they need to break their addiction. Specifically, the TREAT Act elements included will increase treatment availability by enabling physician assistants and nurse practitioners to provide treatments, exempt office-administered prescriptions from the federal cap, and allow states to adjust the patient cap to meet the needs of their residents.

This is an incredibly important issue for Kentuckians suffering from heroin and opioid addiction, which is why legislation is not the only avenue myself and other Senators are pursuing. After sending a letter to Sylvia Burwell, the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) last month, we were pleased to hear that due to our efforts, just last week HHS lifted their treatment cap from 100 to 275. This is a necessary relief for Kentucky’s doctors who are already at the cap and have been forced to turn patients away.

Fighting for this change for our Kentucky families has been a top priority of mine, which is why these developments in making parts of the TREAT Act a reality is an achievement I am incredibly proud of. In a time where Washington is plagued by partisan bickering, it is rare to achieve bipartisan agreement on something, so I am encouraged by those who have joined me in this fight against the heroin epidemic. Kentucky needs leaders to address the problems plaguing our communities, and I’m determined to continue to lead on this issue.

Sen. Rand Paul (R) represents Kentucky in the U.S. Senate

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4 Comments

  1. Jim Shier says:

    Thank you Dr. Paul. Once again, you have used your position as the Senator from Kentucky, to move a very serious problem in this country, towards a better place.
    I have followed you career since coming to the Senate in 2010 and time and again, you spend time learning about and understanding the most difficult issues that we as a country face and ultimately you introduce common sense legislation, often co-sponsored with a Democrat or two.
    Woe to our country that it is not you running against Hillary Clinton for the Presidency. There’s always 2020….better year for an eye doctor to win in any event.

  2. Bill Siller says:

    I, too, have followed your career from forming your own group to certify you because you didn’t like the way they ran things, to wasting your time on running for President. The people of Kentucky have had it with a part time Senator. This could have been done sooner if you hadn’t been wearing your rose colored glasses! As far as 2020, you will see that on ABC. You will be retiring soon…………….

  3. Justin says:

    Thank you for everything you do! You’re a great Senator and an even better man!

  4. Philip Haddad says:

    Thank you Sen./Dr. Rand Paul for your compassionate & Constitutional stances, you are a standard bearer for others in your position!

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