WASHINGTON, D.C. – Wisconsin U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin introduced bipartisan legislation today to make naloxone rescue kits more affordable and accessible to our nation’s veterans.
As a PBS Frontline report recently highlighted, America’s veterans face greater risk amid the nation’s opioid crisis. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) system, veterans are more likely to die from accidental opioid overdoses than non-veterans. And, in 2014, more than 55,000 veterans were diagnosed with an opioid use disorder. This bipartisan bill will eliminate copayment requirements for veterans prescribed naloxone rescue kits, which can help reverse the toxic effects of opioid overdoses and educate veterans and, when the veterans consent, their families about safe opioid use.
“Veterans deserve affordable access to lifesaving therapies like naloxone in an emergency, particularly those at high-risk of overdose and those struggling with ongoing opioid use disorders,” Senator Baldwin said. “Providing at-risk veterans free naloxone kits—without requiring a copayment—removes a key barrier to care and will significantly improve patient safety by helping veterans, their families and their doctor appropriately protect against the unpredictable risk associated with opioid use.”
Senator Baldwin’s new bipartisan legislation builds off her larger veterans reform effort, the Jason Simcakoski Memorial Opioid Safety Act, a bipartisan bill aimed at providing safer and more effective pain management services to our nation’s veterans, which directs the VA to enhance its naloxone education and distribution program. An updated version of this legislation passed the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs at the end of last year and awaits consideration by the full Senate.
In addition, Senator Baldwin also advanced legislation as a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, which passed last month and which included a Baldwin reform that would direct the VA, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Department of Defense to provide practitioners with best practices for co-prescribing naloxone in conjunction with opioids for patients at an elevated risk of overdose.