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May 8, 2019

Lawmakers Reintroduce Legislation to Combat the Opioid and Substance Use Epidemic

Massachusetts would receive an estimated $120.1 million per year in state and local formula grants under the CARE Act, with opportunity to apply for additional competitive funding


Read Letters of Support from Labor, Health Advocacy, and Tribal Organizations (PDF)

Read Letter from Massachusetts Sheriffs in Support of the CARE Act (PDF)

View Full List of Endorsements (PDF)   

View Targeted Programs for Tribal Nations (PDF)


Bill Text (PDF) | Fact Sheet (PDF) | Section-by-Section (PDF)


WASHINGTON – Today, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) co-sponsored legislation introduced by Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Representative Elijah E. Cummings (D-MD), Chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform titled the Comprehensive Addiction Resources Emergency (CARE) Act, the most ambitious legislation ever introduced in Congress to confront the opioid and substance use epidemic. Endorsed by over 200 organizations, the CARE Act would provide state and local governments with $100 billion in federal funding over ten years, including more than $800 million per year directly to tribal governments and organizations.

The legislation is cosponsored by eight additional members of the Massachusetts federal delegation, including U.S. Senator Edward J. Markey (D-MA), and U.S. Representatives Jim McGovern (D-MA), Lori Trahan (D-MA), Joseph Kennedy III (D-MA), Katherine Clark (D-MA), Seth Moulton (D-MA), Stephen Lynch (D-MA), and Bill Keating (D-MA).

Originally introduced last year, the updated CARE Act of 2019 includes new provisions to  strengthen standards for services and recovery residences and establish a new grant program that would help workers who are at risk of, or struggling with, addiction to maintain or find employment while in treatment and recovery. The bill would also incentivize states to cover the full range of addiction services in state Medicaid programs.

“My district, the Massachusetts 7th, is a district that is disproportionately burdened by the opioid epidemic, destabilizing households and plaguing our communities,” said Representative Pressley. “Instead of continuing the federal war on drugs that has criminalized substance use disorders, we must prioritize prevention & treatment over incarceration. I am proud to co-sponsor groundbreaking legislation like the CARE Act, which focuses on making substantial, long-term investments that our communities need to meaningfully address this horrifying epidemic.”

“For too long, state and local leaders, health officials, and first responders in Massachusetts have been forced to shoulder the burden of the opioid crisis,” said Senator Warren. “It’s time to confront this crisis head on at the federal level and provide critical support for individuals and families struggling with addiction. I have a plan for that, and I’m proud to partner with my colleagues in the Massachusetts federal delegation to reintroduce it today.”

“In Massachusetts, we know the terrible toll of the opioid epidemic all too well. But we also know that instead of giving in to despair, communities here and across the country are responding to this crisis with strength, courage, and resilience. By allocating resources and tools, Congress can build momentum in the fight against opioids and end this epidemic that has taken far too many lives. I’m proud to strongly support the CARE Act, I thank Senator Warren and Chairman Cummings for reintroducing this bill, and I urge our colleagues to join us in this effort,” said Representative McGovern.

“There is not a community in Massachusetts or the United States that remains untouched by the ongoing opioid addiction crisis. I hear about it whenever I am traveling throughout my district. From Lawrence, to Lowell, to Gardner families are in need of help. This public health emergency requires a significant and sustained federal response – not half measures or lip service. That is why I am proud to cosponsor the reintroduction of the CARE Act, which will help steer millions of dollars directly to our hardest hit communities to make sure they have the resources necessary to conduct their addiction prevention, education, treatment, and recovery work,” said Representative Trahan.

“Too many families across our country live in fear that they will lose a loved one to an overdose,” said Representative Clark. “The CARE Act provides significant new resources for prevention, treatment, research, and innovation to fight the opioid epidemic and put Americans struggling with substance use disorder on the road to recovery. We want families to know that we hear you, we care, and we’re fighting to get the help you need.”

“Overcoming the opioid epidemic requires robust investment in the full continuum of care that strengthens prevention, response and treatment. Too many families have been forced to bury loved ones too soon because their government has failed to match words of concern with the systemic reforms this crisis demands. Under Senator Warren and Chairman Cumming’s leadership, we can pass the CARE Act and build on the efforts already being taken on the state and local levels,” said Representative Kennedy.

“Everyday, I hear from people who are facing addiction or who have lost a loved one to the opioid crisis ravaging our country,” Representative Moulton said. “Congress must pass the CARE Act now and equip American communities with the resources they need to respond to this public health emergency. American lives are at stake.”

“My district is home to some of the counties in Massachusetts hit hardest by the opioid crisis,” said Representative Keating.  “This disease knows no gender, race, or socio-economic boundaries; it affects everyone. We can no longer rely on piecemeal solutions. The CARE Act is bold, sweeping legislation that will attack all facets of the opioid crisis, and I am proud to be an original cosponsor of this important bill.”

Life expectancy in the United States has now dropped three years in a row—and drug overdoses are the single biggest contributor. In 2017, more than 70,000 Americans died from drug overdoses—the highest rate of drug overdose deaths in the United States. Opioid-related overdoses accounted for 47,600—or 68%—of these deaths. Yet, only about 10% of those in need of specialty treatment for substance use disorders are able to access it.

Massachusetts has been hit particularly hard by the opioid crisis, with a rate of opioid overdose deaths that was almost twice the national average in 2017. Available toxicology data show the deadly synthetic opioid, fentanyl, is overwhelmingly responsibility for this ongoing public health crisis in the Commonwealth.

Under the CARE Act, Massachusetts would receive an estimated $120.1 million per year in formula funding to fight substance use disorder and the opioid epidemic, including an estimated $56.6 million per year allocated to the state and an estimated $63.5 million per year distributed among eligible counties. The Commonwealth, as well as any city or county in Massachusetts, also has the opportunity to apply for additional funding from $2.6 billion in competitive grant programs for states and local areas.

Estimates based on recent data indicate that 10 counties in Massachusetts would likely qualify for these formula grants, including Middlesex, Essex, Worcester, Suffolk, Bristol, Plymouth, Norfolk, Hampden, Barnstable, and Berkshire.

For example:  

  • Middlesex County, with 1,126 drug overdose deaths from 2015 to 2017, could receive as much as $12 million per year to address the crisis.
  • Essex County, with 842 drug overdose deaths from 2015 to 2017, could receive as much as $9 million per year.
  • Worcester County, with 725 drug overdose deaths from 2015 to 2017, could receive as much as $7.7 million per year.

Clinics and nonprofits in Massachusetts could also receive a share of $1 billion in annual grants. These federal grants would support organizations focused on prevention, treatment and recovery, outreach, support, and harm reduction services for people with substance use disorders and their families.  Meanwhile, state first responders, public health departments, and other stakeholders could access $500 million in discounted naloxone, the overdose reversal drug.  Finally, this legislation would make it easier to hold corporate executives at pharmaceutical companies accountable for actions that fuel the opioid crisis.

The legislation has been endorsed by 200 organizations and numerous local leaders, elected officials, and policymakers across Massachusetts. You can view the full list of endorsing organizations here.