Sens. Ossoff, Grassley Introduce Groundbreaking Bipartisan Legislation to Help Rural Communities Combat Opioid Epidemic

Leading national health and law enforcement agencies praise legislation

Washington, D.C. –– Today U.S. Senators Jon Ossoff (D-GA) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) introduced bipartisan legislation to help rural communities combat opioid overdoses and fund community-based treatment programs.

The Rural Opioid Abuse Prevention Act would help ensure rural communities experiencing a high level of opioid overdoses have the resources they need to respond to the crisis.

The program aims to reduce opioid overdose deaths in high-risk rural communities while raising awareness about local opioid use and substance use disorder.

“Like so many Georgians, I’ve lost friends to the opioid epidemic. My bipartisan bill with Senator Grassley will fund efforts in rural communities to prevent and treat addiction and to save lives,” said Sen. Ossoff.

“We’ve made some progress in fighting the opioid crisis, but with overdose deaths rising, Congress needs to act. Our bill will help communities in Iowa and across the country to prevent and handle any surge in opioid overdoses. I look forward to working to pass this bipartisan legislation and preventing more Americans from falling victim to addiction, including those individuals in the criminal justice system,” Sen. Grassley said.

The bipartisan legislation would surge federal dollars to provide rural communities with the support they need to combat the epidemic. The Rural Opioid Abuse Prevention Act would:

  • Identify current gaps in prevention, treatment, and recovery services for individuals who interact with the criminal justice system in rural areas
  • Increase or create new efforts to address the opioid crisis in that community
  • Dedicate funding to local governments and organizations with a documented history of providing services to rural communities or regions highly impacted by substance use disorder.

Sen. Ossoff has repeatedly called for increased funding for rural health care and recently secured more than $8.5 billion in relief funding for rural clinics and hospitals nationwide.

Congressman Conor Lamb (D-PA-17) and Congressman Randy Feenstra (R-IA-04) introduced companion bipartisan legislation in the House of Representatives earlier this year.

“This commonsense legislation ensures communities in rural America — many of which have been devastated by the opioid epidemic during COVID-19 — have the resources they need to combat the opioid crisis. Congress should get to work to pass this legislation in both the House and Senate and send this bill to the President for his signature as quickly as possible,” said Rep. Lamb.

“Tackling the opioid epidemic in rural America requires a targeted approach. Our bipartisan, bicameral proposal accomplishes this by ensuring those suffering from addiction have access to the resources they need to begin the recovery and healing process,”said Rep. Feenstra. “By providing tools to local organizations and governments, the promising pilot programs implemented in this bill would be a critical step in the right direction as we continue working to curb the opioid epidemic that has afflicted communities across the country.”

Leading national health and law enforcement agencies praised the introduction of the Rural Opioid Abuse Prevention Act:

“The National Rural Health Association (NRHA) is proud to support the Rural Opioid Abuse Prevention Act introduced by Senator Ossoff (D-GA) and Senator Grassley (R-IA). This legislation will help rural communities across the nation receive grant funding to reduce opioid deaths by formalizing the Department of Justice Rural Responses to the Opioid Epidemic Initiative. As the opioid epidemic continues to worsen, it is critical that the federal government continues to invest in successful programs that help save lives, particularly in rural areas,” said Alan Morgan, CEO of the National Rural Health Association.

“The opioid epidemic in rural America is unprecedented in our history. Many lives have been lost and families torn apart. Rural and tribal communities across our country continue to struggle with this epidemic and the COVID pandemic has made the drug overdose epidemic worse. Rural and tribal law enforcement are dealing with an increase in overdoses from illicit fentanyl, prescription opioids and heroin. Passing the Rural Opioid Abuse Prevention Act would provide resources to help rural communities combat opioid overdoses and provide alternatives to incarceration. This bill is in the best interest of small and rural enforcement agencies and we look forward to its passage,” the Small & Rural Law Enforcement Executives’ Association said.

“A New PATH (Parents for Addiction Treatment & Healing) fully supports the Rural Opioid Abuse Prevention Act. It is critical that we support rural communities in addressing opioid overdoses, especially during the pandemic. Too many people are at high risk of overdose, and there are concerning gaps in treatment and recovery services, especially for people with substance use disorders who become entangled in the criminal justice system,” A New PATH (Parents for Addiction Treatment & Healing) wrote.

“From housing to transportation and employment training, there is a significant gap in recovery support services in rural communities. Yet, there are also strong assets in rural America for local leaders to tap in building these supports. We urge Congress to enact the Rural Area Opioid Prevention Program Act to sustain the vital efforts to reduce overdose in high-risk rural areas and create opportunities for more individuals and families to achieve long-term recovery from addiction,” said Patty McCarthy, Chief Executive Officer, Faces & Voices of Recovery.

“We are happy to support the permanent creation of this program which provides rural communities with funding to adopt public health-based approaches to reduce overdoses,”the Partnership to End Addiction wrote. “Additional substance use and addiction resources are desperately needed in all communities but particularly in rural communities where services and resources are lacking. We hope this program will help to reduce the devastation of opioid overdoses on individuals and their families in rural communities.

Click here for a one-pager about the Rural Opioid Abuse Prevention Act.

Click here to read the Rural Opioid Abuse Prevention Act.

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