Bennet, Gardner, Tipton back opioid bills

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Colorado U.S. Senators Michael Bennet (D) and Cory Gardner (R), along with a bipartisan group of lawmakers, today introduced the Alternatives to Opioids (ALTO) in the Emergency Department Act to fund innovative approaches to combat the opioid epidemic.

The House companion Alternatives to Opioids (ALTO) was introduced by U.S. Representatives Diana DeGette (D-CO-01), Scott R. Tipton (R-CO-03), Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ-09), and David B. McKinley (R-WV-01).

“In Colorado, our communities are being ripped apart by opioid addiction, but they are also seeing promise in new approaches to combat this epidemic,” Bennet said. “We need to invest in data-driven, innovative programs like the Colorado Opioid Safety Collaborative Pilot—which has successfully used alternatives to opioids as first-line treatment for pain. Let’s pass this bipartisan bill to expand these programs and help decrease opioid usage across the country.”

“We all know people that have been impacted by the opioid epidemic in Colorado, and we need to look at every possible action we can take to fight it,” Gardner said. “While much more needs to be done to stop this problem in our communities, this legislation takes a step in the right direction by creating an avenue to expand models that lower the use of opioids in our emergency departments to treat pain with alternative methods that have been successful in Colorado as well as other states. “

“Opioid abuse in America is a multifaceted issue, however opioid addiction often stems from prescribed pain medication,” said Tipton. “The ALTO program offers a unique solution to the opioid crisis by offering non-opioid pain treatments in emergency departments across several states, including Colorado. So far this program has had success across our state in considerably decreasing the use of narcotics, and I look forward to seeing this program implemented in more emergency departments across the nation.”

Colorado has the 12th highest rate of opioid abuse and misuse of any state, and despite national efforts, the opioid crisis is showing no signs of abating. A report issued this week by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) found that emergency room visits stemming from opioid overdoses rose nationally by approximately 30 percent between July 2016 and September 2017. The report noted that abuse is affecting all age groups and all geographic regions in the nation, with the acting head of the CDC saying the epidemic is getting “worse.”

As a first line of defense against the opioid epidemic, emergency rooms are well positioned to serve as laboratories of innovation. At the same time, because of the short-term nature of the care they provide, emergency rooms are often highly susceptible to “doctor shopping,” where patients seek to obtain multiple prescriptions for misuse or abuse.

Eager to try fresh approaches to address this epidemic, emergency departments in several states have developed effective programs that have drastically reduced the use of opioids. The Colorado Opioid Safety Collaborative Pilot—the result of a partnership between the Colorado Hospital Association and American College of Emergency Physicians—decreased emergency department opioid usage by 36 percent in just six months.

The Alternatives to Opioids in the Emergency Department Act would establish a demonstration program to test alternative pain management protocols to limit the use of opioids in hospital emergency departments. The legislation would provide grant funding to build these programs. Following the completion of the program, the Secretary of Health and Human Services would submit a report to Congress on results and issue recommendations for broader implementation.