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Senate to pass bill addressing opioid & heroin epidemic

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RICHMOND, Va. — Thursday the U.S Senate is expected to pass bipartisan legislation that tackles heroin and prescription drug abuse and overdose deaths, a growing epidemic in Virginia and across the country.

The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, or CARA Act, focuses on prevention and treatment.

The Senate bill authorizes more than $300 million over five years in grants for health and justice programs at the state and local levels.

In 2015, heroin and prescription drug overdoses claimed the lives of 728 Virginians. This increase marked the first time ever fatal car crashes was passed as a leading cause of accidental death in the state.

CARA Act is supported by Virginia U.S. Senator Mark Warner.

“Unfortunately, in the last few years we’ve seen a dramatic rise in terms of abuse of prescription drugs, pain killers, opioids, and, more recently, as those drugs got more expensive, people turning to heroin,” Warner said.

The Senate bill also improves prescription drug monitoring to curb the number of people who illegally receive multiple prescriptions for painkillers, often from multiple doctors. Access to the overdose-reversal drug naloxone will also be expanded under this legislation.

“We’ve got to make sure as well as we pass this legislation that we actually put additional resources behind it,” Warner said. “CARA is a good step forward, this bipartisan bill, but if we don’t fund these programs then we‘re going to see, unfortunately, this type of drug abuse scourge continue all across Virginia and all across the nation.”