At a time when there’s not nearly enough bipartisan cooperation in Washington, I was able to work with Republicans and Democrats to secure Ohio priorities in the spending bill Congress passed last month. This bipartisan compromise will finally give our businesses, our communities, and our military certainty so they can plan for the future.
For too long, Ohio communities have been desperate for the federal government to step up and provide the necessary resources to effectively combat the opioid epidemic. The bipartisan agreement includes $6 billion to fight addiction, and the spending bill last month outlines how the first $3 billion will be spent. Ohio and other states that have been hit hardest by this epidemic will be first in line to receive that funding through State Targeted Response Grants.
The agreement also fully funds our bipartisan INTERDICT Act, which is supported by Senator Portman and was signed into law by President Trump in January. This investment will allow Customs and Border Protection Agents to support new screening devices, lab equipment, facilities, and personnel to stop deadly drugs like fentanyl at the border and keep them off Ohio streets.
Senator Portman and I worked together with our colleagues in the House to continue protecting our Great Lake, by ensuring $300 million in funding for the Great Lakes Restorative Initiative (GLRI). We didn’t stand for a budget that eliminated the GLRI last year, and nothing changed this year. Efforts to slash funding for GLRI were met again with fierce opposition from all the Ohioans who rely on Lake Erie for a job, a source of water, or a place to be outside with their families.
Republicans and Democrats also came together to support Ohio’s military installations, including Wright-Patt, Toledo’s 180th Fighter Wing, and the Joint Systems Manufacturing Center in Lima. The work done at Ohio Defense installations help keep Americans safe and ensure higher skilled workers are able to continue doing their work.
The short-term extensions we had been living under for months were no way to run a government — Ohio businesses and communities and our military all need certainty to be able to plan for the future.
This bipartisan package will allow them to do that, and ends the irresponsible short-term deals that have become far too common in Washington.
• There is not just one solution to end the opioid epidemic. We need prevention, treatment, enforcement, and recovery. And we need the health insurance industry to step up, and do its part to combat addiction.
That’s why I’m leading a group of Senators in asking the nation’s top health insurers to both review their existing policies in light of the epidemic, and to take additional steps to fight addiction. My colleagues and I want answers from insurance companies on what they’re doing to make it easier for Ohioans to access non-addictive treatment for pain. And we want to make sure there aren’t additional barriers in place for folks who are already struggling with addiction and seeking treatment.
There are many ways addiction can start, and one of them is with legally-prescribed medication to treat chronic pain. That pain is a serious issue for many Ohioans — especially folks who spend their whole lives working jobs that take a toll on their bodies, whether it’s construction, waiting tables, nursing, or on a factory line.
If you have back pain, and the choice is between an addictive opioid that’s covered by your insurance, or expensive physical therapy that you’ll have to pay for out of pocket, it’s understandable that many Ohioans with tight budgets will choose the former.
We know of one patient who was forced to switch from pre-dosed painkiller patches to morphine, when the insurance company stopped covering the patch, even though the morphine has a higher risk of addiction. Another woman with a painful, chronic condition was forced to stop using a non-opioid, non-addictive prescription painkiller when she changed jobs, because her new company’s insurance didn’t cover it.
People want access to alternative ways to treat pain — they just need their insurance to cover them.
Insurers should be a partner in this fight to end the opioid epidemic. That starts with taking a hard look at their coverage policies. It should be as easy for Ohioans to get access to treatment as it is for them to get an opioid in the first place.
Sherrod Brown (D-OH) represents Ohio in the U.S. Senate. He can be contacted via his Columbus office, 200 N. High St., Room 614, Columbus, OH 43215, phone, 614-469-2083, 1-800-896-6446, Cincinnati office, 425 Walnut St., Suite 2310, Cincinnati, OH 45202, phone 513-684-1021, 1-888-896-6446 or Washington, D.C. office, 713 Hart Senate Building, Washington, DC 20510, phone, 202-224-2315.
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