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Addiction & Recovery

In 2018, our nation lost more than 68,500 family, friends and neighbors to the devastating disease of addiction, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

While that year marked the first drop in overdose deaths in the U.S. in almost 30 years, we are still facing a crisis that continues to overwhelm our communities. In fact, Americans are dying from this illness at a faster rate than they did at the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic that sparked a national movement to address it. This tremendous loss of life is so staggering that overdose deaths contributed to the overall reduction of Americans life expectancy. 

Despite the horror and scope of this epidemic, just 1 in 5 individuals suffering with Substance Use Disorder is receiving the treatment they need.

We have to demand better. This disease of despair deserves a response rooted in hope.

We must broaden our focus from arrests and incarceration alone to include pillars of prevention, treatment and recovery. And we must transform the way we think and talk about this issue, applying science and practical solutions we know can work to intervene for individuals who find themselves on a path to addiction and those already in crisis, and to support these individuals and their families in finding a path of prevention or recovery.

A History of Action

Rep. Tonko has a substantial record of work to address the growing opioid epidemic sweeping the United States and is leading the charge in to expand access to Substance Use Disorder (SUD) treatment.


Sponsored Legislation

H.R.2482: Mainstreaming Addiction Treatment Act of 2019 would end an outdated redundancy in federal law that restricts health providers from prescribing buprenorphine, a proven treatment that has helped countless Americans suffering with a substance use disorder. Providers can already prescribe the drug for pain management but are forced to go through a burdensome process to apply for a special DEA waiver to prescribe it to treat addiction. 

H.R.1329: Medicaid Reentry Act allows Medicaid payment for medical services furnished to an incarcerated individual during the 30-day period preceding the individual's release.

Individuals reentering society after incarceration are some 129 times more likely to die of a drug overdose in the first two weeks after release vs. the general population. Former inmates are uniquely vulnerable due to reduced physiological tolerance for opioids, lack of effective addiction treatment options while incarcerated and poor care transitions back into the community.

H.R.3925: Reducing Barriers to Substance Use Treatment Act would prohibit States receiving Federal medical assistance for medication-assisted treatment under Medicaid from imposing utilization control policies or procedures with respect to such treatment, and for other purposes.


Rep. Tonko also co-sponsors:
  • *H.R.4974: MATE Act of 2019 would amend the Controlled Substances Act to require physicians and other prescribers of controlled substances to complete training on treating and managing patients with opioid and other substance use disorders.
  • *H.R.2511: The Reforming and Expanding Access to Treatment Act allows federal payment for qualified substance use disorder services furnished to inmates in public institutions under state Medicaid programs.
  • *H.R.2439: Opioid Workforce Act of 2019 increases the number of residency positions eligible for graduate medical education payments under Medicare for hospitals that have addiction or pain management programs, with an aggregate increase of 1,000 positions over a five-year period.
  • *H.R.2922: Respond NOW Act works to address the opioid epidemic, and for other purposes.
  • *H.R.1767: Excellence in Mental Health and Addiction Treatment Expansion Act increases the number of States that may conduct Medicaid demonstration programs to improve access to community mental health services, and for other purposes.
  • *H.R.3414: Opioid Workforce Act of 2019 would provide for the distribution of additional residency positions to help combat the opioid crisis.
  • H.R.2569: Comprehensive Addiction Resources Emergency Act of 2019 provides emergency assistance to States, territories, Tribal nations, and local areas affected by the opioid epidemic and to make financial assistance available to better deliver essential services to individuals with substance use disorder and their families.
  • *H.Res.714: Recognizing addiction as a disease and supporting efforts to prevent, treat, and destigmatize substance use disorder and addiction.

    *denotes legislation with bipartisan sponsors

Public Advocacy

Delivered Constituent's Personal Plea to President Donald Trump During 2018 State of the Union

Paul W. Collins, a retired firefighter with a 27 year career at the Troy Fire Department, reached out to ask the Congressman to please share with the President his family's painful story of loss at the hands of substance use disorder. Collins lost his daughter Ashley to a drug overdose less than a year earlier. He provided references to several photos on social media including one of him holding a sign and wearing his firefighting helmet at a political rally in Albany supporting then-candidate Trump. The Congressman printed the photo and showed it to the President as he was walking up to the dais to deliver his State of the Union.

When asked about the encounter, Tonko explained: "My message was simple. Paul Collins is a constituent of mine and a supporter of yours. His daughter died recently from a drug overdose. He asked me to deliver his personal plea to respond to this crisis. The President's response was something like 'we’ll talk.' I plan to make sure we do. When he was leaving the dais, I repeated to him that we need to work together and the President seemed to acknowledge that. I expect he will remember the exchange. He certainly needs to. because we need the President to get on board with those of us who are actually working on the issue."

Click here to read Rep. Tonko's follow-up letter to the President
(also see: signing photo)

Related coverage:

Spoke with individuals on the road to recovery at New Choices Recovery Center to take suggestions on how to best address Substance Use Disorder with federal reform from Congress.

New Choices Recovery Center has been designated as an OASAS Center of Treatment Innovation (COTI). The COTI Project seeks to increase access to treatment and recovery services  in underserved communities within Schenectady, Saratoga and Montgomery counties by utilizing peer supports, clinical services and emerging technology to support individuals with opioid use disorder toward recovery closer to home.  


Letter to Constituents on Addiction & Recovery, January 22, 2018

On January 22nd, Rep. Tonko sent a constituent letter highlighting the issue, his priorities and the importance of taking immediate and meaningful action that will save lives and help prevent the epidemic from continuing to accelerate. A full page scan of the letter can be found here.

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