Tester Introduces Bill to Help Montana Communities Combat Drug Abuse & Addiction

The Opioid Response Enhancement Act Will Fund On-The-Ground Treatment Efforts For The Next Five Years

(U.S. Senate) – As part of his ongoing effort to combat drug abuse and addiction across Montana, U.S. Senator Jon Tester has introduced the Opioid Response Enhancement Act, which invests $12 billion in helping states combat the opioid crisis over the next five years.

“Opioid abuse is a scourge on our state and our nation,” Tester said. “If we’re going to get a grip on this crisis we must give folks on the ground the tools they need to help prevent and treat addiction. Rural communities have been hit particularly hard by this crisis, which is why we’ve introduced this bill-to get resources where they need to be.”

Tester’s bill reauthorizes the State Targeted Response to the Opioid Crisis (STR) Grant Program, which was established by the bipartisan 21st Century Cures Act-a bill Tester helped pass in 2016. This legislation provided $1 billion in funding for STR Grants through 2018. After hearing about the success Montana’s STR Grant recipients have had over the last year, Tester wants to ensure these organizations can continue their work for the next five years.

“Existing funding has already helped Montanans who are struggling with addiction,” said James Kiser, President of Providence St. Joseph Medical Center in Polson. “For example, Providence St. Joseph Medical Center has created a medication-assisted treatment program with new access to behavioral health services, addiction counseling and treatment. This program, and others like it, can have a multigenerational impact across the Mission Valley. We applaud Senator Tester for co-sponsoring a bill to renew flexible state grants that respond to the opioid epidemic.”

The Opioid Response Enhancement Act also directs states to prioritize local community organizations and counties when awarding STR Grant funding, to ensure folks on the ground can get these resources to the people and places that need them most.

“Per usual, Senator Tester understands what works, and is once again leading the charge to invest in effective solutions for the critical problems faced by communities like ours,” said Dr. David Mark, CEO of Bighorn Valley Health Center in Ashland and Hardin. “STR funding has allowed us to establish a ‘Hub and Spoke’ model of care delivery. Being able to provide integrated care in this fashion has been transformative. Among families beleaguered by this debilitating epidemic, we’re starting to finally see hope begin to edge out what has been despair for too long. As people experience what life can be like when they’re freed from the scourge of opioid addiction, their joy can be contagious, particularly when they then reach out to connect suffering friends and family members to needed care.”

Cindy Smith, CEO of Bullhook Community Health Center in Havre, also touted the integrated care STR grant funding has allowed her clinic to provide.

“We are giving our patients a chance at a normal life,” Smith said. “Giving them medications for their substance use disorder just like they might need medication for diabetes and support like care management, counselors if they need them, medical providers, dentists, and a pharmacist all are part of the team to help them on a day to day or month to month basis to succeed. Diabetic patients need support and so do those with a substance use disorders. It is our daughters, sons, husbands and wives and may even be someone’s grandmother that we are helping.”

Tester has been one of the Senate’s most vocal advocates for addiction treatment. In May, he raised serious alarms about the White House’s plan to gut the budget of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, which has been instrumental in combatting meth and opioid addiction in Montana. The Senate recently unanimously passed Tester’s bill to bolster Veterans Treatment Courts, which have thrived with Tester’s support over the last few years.

A copy of the Opioid Response Enhancement Act is available HERE.