WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith announced that the University of Minnesota has received $1,000,000 in grant funding from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to expand substance use disorder treatment in rural areas through the Rural Communities Opioid Response Program.  This funding will be used in Minnesota to increase access to treatment, reduce unmet treatment needs and prevent addiction through evidence-based programs.

“The opioid epidemic is hurting communities across Minnesota—none have been immune from its devastating effects,” Klobuchar said. “This crucial funding will increase our commitment to proven prevention strategies and expand access to treatment for those suffering from addiction.”

“The opioid epidemic has been devastating to families all across Minnesota, and has hit rural areas particularly hard” said Sen. Smith, a member of the Senate Health Committee. “We need to continue acting on this emergency with the seriousness and resources it demands. I’m glad to see this investment in expanding treatment in rural areas through the Rural Communities Opioid Response Program.”

Klobuchar has long led local and national efforts to curb drug abuse and help people overcome addiction.

In October 2018, three of Klobuchar’s bipartisan bills to combat the opioid epidemic were signed into law as part of the Substance Use-Disorder Prevention that Promotes Opioid Recovery and Treatment (SUPPORT) for Patients and Communities Act. The Synthetic Abuse and Labeling of Toxic Substances (SALTS) Act, which Klobuchar introduced with Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), will make it easier to prosecute the sale and distribution of “analogue” drugs, which are synthetic substances that are substantially similar to illegal drugs. The Synthetics Trafficking & Overdose Prevention (STOP) Act, which Klobuchar introduced with Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), will help stop dangerous synthetic drugs like fentanyl and carfentanil from being shipped through our borders to drug traffickers here in the United States. The Eliminating Kickbacks in Recovery Act, which Klobuchar introduced with Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), will help crack down on health care facilities or providers that try to game the system to take advantage of vulnerable patients.

In February 2018, Klobuchar and Senators Rob Portman (R-OH), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) introduced the bipartisan Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) 2.0 Act. The bill would increase the funding authorization levels for the CARA programs enacted in 2016 and put in place additional policy reforms to help combat the opioid epidemic.

To build on the monumental first step of CARA, Klobuchar also introduced the Prescription Drug Monitoring Act, which would require the use of strong prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs) in all states that receive certain federal funding to combat opioid abuse and also requires states to make their PDMP data available to other states. Last year, she and other senators introduced the Budgeting for Opioid Addiction Treatment (LifeBOAT) Act, which would establish a reliable funding stream to provide and expand access to substance abuse treatment.

When Sen. Smith became Senator in 2018, she successfully fought for a seat on the Senate Health Committee and made addressing the opioid crisis a top priority. That same year, Sen. Smith helped write the bipartisan opioid legislation that the President signed into law. It included her provisions to help bring mental health professionals into schools and community-based organizations in order to better reach families who may need help with substance abuse and mental health issues.

In 2019, Smith introduced the Native Behavioral Health Access Improvement Act to create a behavioral health program to help Tribes develop solutions that include culturally-appropriate efforts aimed at prevention, treatment, and recovery. Sen. Smith’s bill would set up the Special Behavioral Health Program for Indians.