Continuing the Fight to Stop Nevada’s Opioid Epidemic
The opioid crisis touches every corner of our country. Every day, more than 115 people die from an opioid overdose, and thousands more suffer in the grips of addiction. Now is the time to take meaningful action to confront this public health crisis and support individuals and their families struggling with addiction.
The opioid epidemic has hit Nevada especially hard. In 2017, 388 Nevadans died from opioid overdoses, 46 percent of whom were aged 55 and above. Seniors represent the highest percentage of individuals who die as a result of an overdose. In addition, in 2016, the amount of drug related deaths in Nevada reached 21.7 per 100,000 people, higher than the national average of 19.8.
Last year, I sat down in Reno with law enforcement, clinicians, advocates and individuals recovering from addiction. We discussed positive steps Nevada is taking to combat this growing epidemic, including expanding Medicaid and the formation of a Statewide Partnership on the Opioid Crisis. Recently, the City of Reno filed a lawsuit against pharmaceutical companies that have used deceptive marketing practices to downplay the risks of opioid addiction and abuse.
On the federal level, Congress just passed a sweeping opioids package that takes important first steps in expanding access to treatment and cracking down on fraudulent and misleading pharmaceutical practices. This legislation will increase access to addiction treatment and will provide local communities and law enforcement the resources they need to combat the opioid epidemic in Nevada.
I’m the proud cosponsor of two bipartisan bills that were included in the final opioids package and signed into law by the President. The bipartisan Stop Excessive Narcotics in our Retirement (SENIOR) Communities Protection Act will crack down on criminals who scam the Medicare system and protect seniors from those who misuse the Medicare system to illicitly acquire opioids. Criminals often steal seniors’ Medicare numbers and then use them to fraudulently bill Medicare for opioids. This bill will give Medicare Part D, or the Medicare prescription drug benefit, the ability to suspend payments to a pharmacy that is under investigation for fraud. This is the same tool that is available to Medicare Parts A and B.