Hassan On Sweeping Opioid Legislation: 'This is Just the Beginning'

Oct 9, 2018

Senator Maggie Hassan praised the new bipartisan SUPPORT bill which the U.S. Senate passed last week.
Credit Sarah Gibson for NHPR

Senators Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan were in Manchester on Tuesday to discuss a major opioid bill awaiting President Trump's signature.

The U.S. Senate passed the sweeping legislation, called the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act, last week. 

It is being called one of the most significant bipartisan victories this year, and Senators Shaheen and Hassan say it's a big win for states like New Hampshire hit especially hard by the epidemic.

Among other things, the bill makes it easier to prosecute fentanyl traffickers, increases monitoring of drug prescription shipments, and helps US Border and Customs and the Postal Service detect and stop the shipment of fentanyl.

It also calls for more resources for recovery centers and foster care kids affected by the epidemic, and it increases access for opioid users to Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT).

Senator Shaheen says the lack of MAT has been a major problem in New Hampshire, where there aren't enough health care professionals to prescribe MAT options like suboxone and buprenorphine.

"We had put handcuffs on providers in providing that treatment," Shaheen said. "This law changes that. It expands the number of people each provider can treat, and it expands those people who can provide MAT to nurse practitioners and physician assistants."

The bill does not appropriate funding for the new programs.

New Hampshire received around $22.5 million in federal funding this year for fighting the opioid epidemic.

Senator Hassan said she planned to advocate for that amount or more in budget negotiations for fiscal year 2020. Hassan praised the bill but said the work wasn't over.

"It's certainly just a beginning; we know there is much more work to do," she said. "The minute this bill is implemented, we have to begin working on the next set of bills to help strengthen treatment, recovery and law enforcement efforts."