Gray, Yarmuth call for emergency funding for opioid addiction legislation passed in July

08/31/2016 05:04 PM

LOUISVILLE — Democrats Jim Gray and U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth are calling on U.S. Sen. Rand Paul and other congressional Republicans to pass emergency funding for anti-heroin legislation with the Midwest in the midst of an overdose surge.

The pair’s Wednesday news conference outside The Healing Place came hours after two dozen overdoses were reported in Louisville. In Cincinnati last week, 174 overdosed on heroin in a six-day period.

Congress passed a wide-ranging bill, the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, to target opioid abuse that was later signed into law by President Barack Obama in July.

But the legislation doesn’t have many teeth at this point because new programs created under it haven’t been funded yet.

“Next week as Congress reconvenes, I call on Sen. Paul and Senate Republicans who opposed emergency funding for the opioid crisis to fully fund the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act,” said Gray, mayor of Lexington and the Democratic U.S. Senate candidate. “While CARA includes important treatment and recovery efforts, it does not include the means, the resources to implement them.”

Gray and Yarmuth said Republicans in Congress should help pass emergency funding in the neighborhood of $600 million, but the GOP contends that should be handled in the appropriations process.

For Yarmuth, that’s problematic.

“Right now we have not passed appropriations bills and enacted them to fund anything in government right now, so we need to pass a continuing resolution, the duration of which is still to be determined,” said Yarmuth, D-Louisville. “But there are always with continuing resolutions, there are emergency funding measures that are put into those bills, and this is an opportunity to do that.”

Yarmuth praised the role Paul played in expanding access to medication assisted drug treatment through CARA, but Gray wasn’t nearly as complimentary to his opponent in the Nov. 8 election.

“By blocking emergency funding for the opioid epidemic, Rand Paul continues to play partisan political games with the health and safety of Kentuckians,” Gray said. “These kinds of antics are why so many Americans are frustrated with our leaders. Rand Paul has shown he’s not serious about being a senator for Kentucky.”

Paul’s campaign dismissed Gray’s notion that the senator is against funding anti-heroin legislation, noting that he voted for $1.5 billion to target opioid addiction last year as part of Republican efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare.

“It’s disappointing that rather than focusing on the bipartisan work of Congress in addressing the opioid epidemic, Mayor Gray is once again politicizing a crisis,” Paul campaign spokeswoman Kelsey Cooper said in a statement.

“The heroin epidemic facing our Commonwealth is too important to be left to partisan bickering, which is why Dr. Paul reached across the aisle to work with Democrat Sen. Ed Markey to ensure critical language from their bill, the TREAT Act, was included in the final opioid bill to expand access to addition treatment.”

Gray’s and Yarmuth’s press conference also comes on the heels of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services awarding the state part of a $53 million grant to target opioid abuse.

“That’s good funding, but again, that’s not the funding that’s needed to implement the legislation that can really deal with a lot of these problems on a long-term basis,” Yarmuth said.

Kevin Wheatley

Kevin Wheatley is a reporter for Pure Politics. He joined cn|2 in September 2014 after five years at The State Journal in Frankfort, where he covered Kentucky government and politics. You can reach him at kevin.wheatley@charter.com or 502-792-1135 and follow him on Twitter at @KWheatley_cn2.

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