March 15, 2017

Senator Maggie Hassan Delivers Maiden Floor Speech, Focuses on Efforts to Combat the Heroin, Opioid, and Fentanyl Epidemic

Senator Maggie Hassan Delivers Maiden Floor Speech, Focuseson Efforts to Combat the Heroin, Opioid, and Fentanyl Epidemic

Speech Highlights Harmful Impact That Trumpcare Would Have On Efforts To Combat Substance Misuse Crisis


Click here for video of Senator Hassan's speech

WASHINGTON - Calling attention to the importance of working across party lines to combat the heroin, opioid, and fentanyl crisisand the need for continued federal action, Senator Maggie Hassan today delivered her first official speech on the U.S. Senate floor.

In her remarks, Senator Hassanhighlighted stories that she has heard fromGranite Staters about their recoveries and their losses, and discussed how the courage of individuals in sharing these stories ishelping to break down the stigma of addiction and bring people together to focus onsolutions. Senator Hassan also outlined the harmful impact that Trumpcare would have on efforts to combat substance misuse - including by repealing New Hampshire's bipartisan Medicaid expansion plan, which provides behavioral health and substance use disorder treatment coverage to over 50,000 Granite Staters.

As Governor, Senator Hassan worked with members of both parties to implement a comprehensive approach ?to the epidemicfocused on strengthening prevention, treatment, recovery, and law enforcement efforts - and she is bringing that same focus to the United States Senate. She has joined Senator Portman in introducing the STOP Act, bipartisan legislation that would help stop dangerous synthetic drugs like fentanyl and carfentanil from being shipped into America; joined Senator Klobuchar in introducing the SALTS Act, which would empower law enforcement to crack down on synthetic substances and better prosecute drug traffickers; and joined Senators Manchin, Shaheen, and additional colleagues in re-introducing the LifeBOAT Act, which would establish a permanent funding stream to provide and expand access to substance misuse treatment.

On the Senate floor, Senator Hassan also particularly highlighted the leadership of Senator Shaheen, and thanked her for fighting "tirelessly to secure funding to combat this crisis and help the people of our state."

Key Quotes from Senator Hassan's Maiden Speech:

·"The heroin, opioid, and fentanyl crisis is the most pressing public health and safety challenge facing New Hampshire. This epidemic takes a massive toll on our communities, our workforce and our economy... This crisis does not discriminate. It affects people in every community and from all walks of life. In 2016 alone, roughly 500 people in New Hampshire lost their lives as a result of this epidemic. And the spread of synthetic drugs like fentanyl is dramatically increasing the number of lives lost - killing people faster and with smaller amounts. Last year, more than 70% of confirmed New Hampshire drug deaths involved fentanyl. Lives are at stake, and every member of this body must come together and put partisan politics aside to get results for our people."

·"I am extremely concerned about the effect that legislation introduced by House Republicans last week - also known as Trumpcare - would have on our efforts to combat substance misuse... Repealing Medicaid expansion and capping traditional Medicaid would severely hurt the ability of those on the front lines to save lives and combat this deadly epidemic. Substance use disorder treatment providers have been clear that if Medicaid expansion is repealed, they will have to significantly cut back on the help that they can provide to those in need. To pull the rug out from millions of people across the country who are seeking a lifeline from the throes of addiction is unconscionable. And we cannot let that happen."

·"We know that the road ahead will not be easy. The scourge of addiction requires us at times to change the way we have always done things, at a quicker pace than is sometimes comfortable. But that can never be an excuse for inaction... I am willing to work with anyone to help those struggling get the treatment that they need and to support all of the dedicated professionals on the front lines of battling this crisis. We will have to continue to fight together - each and every one of us, every single day - to build on our efforts to combat this crisis. And by working together we can - and will - stem and turn the tide."

Click here for video or see below for full text as prepared for delivery:

M. President, I rise today to deliver my first official speech on the Senate floor.

I want to begin by saying how deeply grateful I am to the people of New Hampshire for the great trust that they have bestowed upon me.

M. President, I come from a state that combines rugged individualism with a strong sense of community. It's what I often call our all-hands-on-deck approach, where we come together, pitch-in, and help our friends and neighbors when they need it.

Right now, we see this approach each and every day, with those on the front lines of our state's devastating substance misuse crisis - law enforcement officials, medical professionals, and citizens in every corner of our state - working together to try to turn the tide of this deadly epidemic.

M. President, the heroin, opioid, and fentanyl crisis is the most pressing public health and safety challenge facing New Hampshire. This epidemic takes a massive toll on our communities, our workforce and our economy. And I know that it is ravaging states all across our nation too.

This crisis does not discriminate. It affects people in every community and from all walks of life.

In 2016 alone, roughly 500 people in New Hampshire lost their lives as a result of this epidemic.

And the spread of synthetic drugs like fentanyl is dramatically increasing the number of lives lost - killing people faster and with smaller amounts. Last year, more than 70% of confirmed New Hampshire drug deaths involved fentanyl.

Lives are at stake, and every member of this body must come together and put partisan politics aside to get results for our people.

M. President, the people of my state have a long tradition of sharing their stories and making their priorities known to the elected officials who represent them. And everywhere I go, I hear stories from those who have been affected by this crisis.

I hear inspiring stories from those in recovery, working to put their lives back together.

And I hear tragic stories from siblings, parents, and friends who know the pain of having a loved one taken from them far too soon.

These stories - all of these stories - are critical in breaking down the stigma of addiction and pushing for solutions.

Instead of simply writing in an obituary that a loved one died "suddenly," more and more families - including the family of one of my son's high school classmates - are speaking out and telling the painful stories of addiction and loss.

Last year, at the annual Easter Egg Hunt I hosted as the Governor of New Hampshire, I was approached by a woman on our State House lawn who was carrying a baby.

She pulled me aside and said that the little boy she was holding was not her son, but her grandson. And that his mother had died from an overdose just one month earlier.

She was there on the day before Easter as we celebrated our spring ritual of renewal and hope, sharing that pain with me, so that we could move forward to help others in her situation.

On Monday, I met with a man named Phil from Laconia, who is now in recovery.

Phil said that over a year-and-a-half ago, he had lost his home and nearly everything because of his substance use disorder. Now - thanks in part to the fact that he was able to gain coverage through Medicaid expansion - Phil is substance free.

He's gone on to become a recovery coach, and he helped found a recovery center in Laconia, where he works to help others with the same challenges that he had.

We can never thank those in recovery and the families who have lost loved ones enough for speaking out about this issue - and for working tirelessly and courageously to try to prevent others from suffering as they have.

But while thanking them is appropriate, it is not enough. The bravery of survivors and those in recovery needs to be marked by our constant vigilance and urgent action.

I am grateful to the Senators who have been true leaders on this issue - especially my fellow Senator from New Hampshire, Jeanne Shaheen, who has fought tirelessly to secure funding to combat this crisis and help the people of our state.

Passage of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act was an important step, as was the 21st Century Cures Act, which included some funding to fight the opioid epidemic. But the Cures Act will not provide enough funding for our state, and I will continue fighting alongside Senator Shaheen to ensure that the federal government provides New Hampshire with the resources that we need.

M. President, I am pleased that there has been bipartisan support for combating this crisis here in the Senate.

But we must continue to work together - at all levels of government and with those on the front lines - to battle this crisis.

During my time as a member of the National Governor's Association, I worked with my fellow Governors from both parties to push for steps - including passing emergency federal funding - to support states' efforts to combat this crisis.

And at the state level in New Hampshire, we proved that we could come together to implement a comprehensive, all-hands-on-deck strategy to support those on the front lines and help save lives.

During my time as Governor, we secured $5 million in additional state funding for treatment, prevention, recovery, and housing programs.

We worked together to provide law enforcement with additional resources through a program called operation Granite Hammer, we expanded drug courts throughout New Hampshire, and we worked to crack down on fentanyl. In order to prevent the overprescribing of opioids, we took steps to improve provider training and update the rules for prescribers.

And critically, M. President, Republicans and Democrats put our differences aside and came together to pass - and reauthorize - the New Hampshire Health Protection Program, also known as Medicaid expansion.

Passing and reauthorizing this program included healthy debate and, at times, heated argument. But what matters is that after those debates, we were able take this essential step forward to continue strengthening our families, our businesses and our economy.

Medicaid expansion is providing quality, affordable health coverage to over 50,000 Granite Staters, including coverage for behavioral health and substance use disorder treatment.

And thousands of people have received addiction treatment after gaining coverage through the Medicaid expansion program in New Hampshire.

What is clear, and what I hear from people in recovery centers all across my state, is that lives are being changed - and saved - as a result of Medicaid expansion.

Take for example, Ashley of Dover, New Hampshire.

I first met Ashley at the Farnum Center in Manchester, and I have been inspired by her story ever since.

Ashley is living proof of the positive impact of Medicaid expansion.

Ashley had struggled for nearly a decade with heroin addiction, in which time she was arrested, her husband died from an overdose, and she lost the custody of her child.

But as a result of her courage, perseverance, and the treatment she received for her substance use disorder under Medicaid expansion - Ashley's story is one of progress.

She has been in recovery for over a year. She is employed, working at Safe Harbor Recovery Center to help others struggling with addiction. And she has moved to employer-sponsored insurance coverage.

It was an honor to have Ashley attend the President's Joint Address to Congress as my guest of honor, and I will continue to carry her story with me in these chambers and beyond.

And it's not just New Hampshire. Republican governors and some of my Republican colleagues in the Senate have made clear just how critical Medicaid expansion is to their states.

As the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities has found, 2.8 million people with substance use disorders, including 220,000 with opioid disorders, have coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

That is real and essential progress, but we know that we have far more work to do.

I am committed to working with members of both parties here in the Senate to continue building on these efforts.

What we cannot afford to do, however, is to allow a partisan agenda to pull us backward.

M. President, I am extremely concerned about the effect that legislation introduced by House Republicans last week - also known as Trumpcare - would have on our efforts to combat substance misuse.

Make no mistake - this legislation would end Medicaid expansion, which experts have said is the most important tool available to fight the substance use crisis.

This plan also cuts and caps the traditional Medicaid program, which means states will be forced to either raise taxes or cut eligibility and services. As a former Governor, I know full well the impact that decisions in Washington can have on our communities.

Repealing Medicaid expansion and capping traditional Medicaid would severely hurt the ability of those on the front lines to save lives and combat this deadly epidemic.

Substance use disorder treatment providers have been clear that if Medicaid expansion is repealed, they will have to significantly cut back on the help that they can provide to those in need.

To pull the rug out from millions of people across the country who are seeking a lifeline from the throes of addiction is unconscionable. And we cannot let that happen.

In addition to making the substance misuse crisis worse, Trumpcare would affect countless others across New Hampshire and America - from individuals who buy their own insurance who would see their premiums skyrocket, to older Americans who would now be forced to pay an age tax, and women and families who would be hurt by the provision defunding Planned Parenthood.

We know that there is more work to do to improve and build on the Affordable Care Act, but this Trumpcare bill is not the answer. And I am working with my colleagues to fight against this legislation.

Furthermore, M. President, I am working on additional legislation that would help combat this substance misuse crisis.

I joined Senator Portman in introducing the STOP Act - bipartisan legislation that would help stop dangerous synthetic drugs like fentanyl and carfentanil from being shipped through our borders to drug traffickers here in the United States.

These synthetic drugs are only making this crisis more dangerous - causing a spike of deaths in New Hampshire and across the nation - and we must do everything possible to stop them from entering our country.

I also joined a bipartisan group of colleagues led by Senator Klobuchar to introduce the SALTS Act - which would empower law enforcement to crack down on synthetic substances and better prosecute drug traffickers.

And I joined Senators Manchin, Shaheen and several of our colleagues to re-introduce the LifeBOAT Act - which would establish a permanent funding stream to provide and expand access to substance misuse treatment.

These are essential steps that we need to take now, and I will also continue evaluating additional legislative steps to support treatment, prevention, recovery, and law enforcement efforts.

M. President, we know that the road ahead will not be easy. The scourge of addiction requires us at times to change the way we have always done things, at a quicker pace than is sometimes comfortable. But that can never be an excuse for inaction.

Every day, I am reminded of the stories of those like the grandmother I met at the Easter Egg hunt, of Phil and Ashley, and the thousands in my state who continue to feel the impacts of a crisis that is taking far too many lives.

By making their voices heard, citizens in New Hampshire are breaking through the stigma of addiction and in turn helping others seek the recovery and treatment they need. It is incumbent upon all of us to ensure that they have access to those services.

And we must all continue to speak up and fight for those who are voiceless and those who continue to struggle.

We must reach out, and work toward policies that can truly make a difference. Because often - when we reach out, people reach back.

But if we are silent or if we allow the rug to be pulled out from under those seeking help -- this epidemic will only get worse.

I am going to continue to fight to make progress. And I am willing to work with anyone to help those struggling get the treatment that they need and to support all of the dedicated professionals on the front lines of battling this crisis.

We will have to continue to fight together - each and every one of us, every single day - to build on our efforts to combat this crisis. And by working together we can - and will - stem and turn the tide.

Thank you, M. President. I yield the floor.

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