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Democrats, Sen. Murray take Trump to task for handling of opioid crisis

UPDATED: Wed., July 19, 2017, 11:09 p.m.

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., leaves the Senate floor on Capitol Hill in Washington, Monday, July 17, 2017. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta) ORG XMIT: DCMC205 (Manuel Balce Ceneta / AP)
Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., leaves the Senate floor on Capitol Hill in Washington, Monday, July 17, 2017. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta) ORG XMIT: DCMC205 (Manuel Balce Ceneta / AP)

A group of Democratic Senators, including Patty Murray, D-Wash., accused the Trump administration of delaying much-needed action to fight opioid addiction in a letter signed Tuesday.

The letter, addressed to Richard Baum, acting director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, raises concern over Republican attempts to cut Medicaid funding, which pays for substance abuse treatment for many patients, and the administration’s proposed budget, which included cuts to substance abuse programs within the Department of Health and Human Services.

“At the same time that the White House is pushing these devastating cuts, the Department of Justice has chosen to ignore the fact that addiction is a public health disease, choosing instead to treat it solely as a criminal justice issue,” the letter said, citing statements made by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Spokane’s largest opioid treatment program is run through the Spokane Regional Health District and expanded earlier this year. It now has space for 740 Medicaid patients. Many of those patients gained coverage through the Medicaid expansion that was part of the Affordable Care Act.

“First and foremost, the Trump Administration needs to stop delaying critical steps that could provide immediate relief to those suffering today and end once and for all their efforts to pass Trumpcare which would absolutely devastate our work to combat this crisis,” Murray said in a statement.

Murray was among the senators who pushed for funding to expand opioid treatment programs in the 21st Century Cures Act, a sweeping health bill passed in late 2016 and signed by President Barack Obama.

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers also voted for the law.

The Trump administration announced in April that Washington would receive $11.8 million in grants toward treatment programs as part of the funding approved by that bill.

Asked to comment on the letter, McMorris Rodgers pointed to the omnibus spending bill passed by Congress in May which included an additional $5.43 billion in funding for addiction treatment programs, including an expansion of medication-assisted treatment. She did not address cuts to Medicaid.

“I’m proud of the steps Congress and the Trump administration have taken to end this epidemic once and for all,” Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., said in a statement.


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