CARA: Landmark Addiction Legislation Signed Into Law

CARA is a monumental step forward to better addressing addiction in our country. It finally moves us closer to treating addiction like a disease through evidence-based practices such as medication assisted and individualized treatment. It supports community-based prevention efforts and long-term, robust recovery support. It expands access to naloxone so that we can reverse overdoses and save lives. It helps educate prescribers. It helps law enforcement divert individuals who are struggling with a substance use disorder so that they can be treated in their communities instead of haphazardly through the criminal justice system. It authorizes $181 million each year in new funding to fight this epidemic.

CARA is the product of bipartisan legislation at its finest---three years of collaboration between voices across the spectrum of this issue: families, first responders, doctors, law enforcement, scientists, and policymakers across the nation who have contributed to a piece of truly comprehensive legislation that propels our nation forward.


Family members who have lost a loved one to the opioid epidemic comment on what the passage of CARA means to them: “CARA passing the Senate and funding being appropriated by the House will mean my son's death will not have been in vain. I never got the chance to try to get my son into treatment. All addicts should be able to receive treatment, without groveling, endless phone calls, or never ending waits. If the opioid catastrophe were a contagious disease, we would all be horrified by the lack of support the treatment option receives. Please pass CARA. Please appropriate funding. Without funding, countless children, parents, siblings, and friends will be lost.” - Mitzie Nay, Minot, ND “On April 20, 2016, I lost my son, Emmett (20), to a Heroin overdose….The treatment of addiction in this country needs to be changed.  It is a disease and needs to be treated as such. I personally have never felt such frustration as I did speaking to my son’s primary care doctor and facing the lack of education on the current treatment options available for Opioid addiction –I was simply blown away by the lack of knowledge surrounding a disease that is touching such a huge population.  Our nurses and physicians need to be treating Substance Use Disorder for what it is – a disease.  Our loved ones need individualized treatment, more options for medically assisted treatment and follow-up!   Access to treatment is, in my eyes, one of the other key elements to CARA. My family did not have the luxury of having and extra $30,000 available to send Emmett to a 30-day (or longer) treatment program – and our private insurance plan did not deem treatment “medically necessary” for Emmett.  I am still baffled that multiple overdoses and active Opioid use did not qualify as “medically necessary”.  Had things been different, I may have been sitting here writing a testament to Emmett’s recovery. CARA is important to me for a very simple reason – we are losing an entire generation to the disease of Substance Use Disorder.   We are losing our sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers and friends.  We are losing the battle against addiction because we are not properly armed to fight it.  We are losing – and will continue to lose unless we do something.”  - Aimee D’Arpino, Bridgewater, MA “The passage of Comprehensive Addiction & Recovery Act (CARA) marks an important shift in how we address the current opioid epidemic. Rather than only focusing on one drug or one social aspect, this legislation takes a comprehensive and cohesive approach to combatting the issue which has been devastating communities in every corner of the United States. For the first time in over 20 years, policymakers have realized that previous efforts have failed us and that a new strategy focusing on public health and safety along with criminal justice reform was needed to curb the unacceptable rate of human suffering and loss of life due to opiate drug overdose. CARA includes critical policy changes and new resources. It covers six pillars of equal importance and all interdependent on a comprehensive response, including prevention, treatment, recovery support, criminal justice reform, overdose reversal and law enforcement. For families across the country who have for years been crippled by a loved ones substance abuse disorder, these changes mean a renewed sense of hope that as a society we can come together in a non-political, bipartisan way to deal with the problems stemming from opiate and heroin addiction.” - Michelle Jaskulski, Cudahy, WI “This bipartisan effort addresses the needs of those that struggle with substance abuse disorder. It covers all aspects of the addiction crisis that has gripped our nation from treatment and recovery services to law enforcement. Our family lost our beautiful 20 year old daughter, Courtney Griffin to overdose in September of 2014…Thank you to all the parents and family members that have stepped forward to accept the painful challenge of telling the stories of their lost ones. Today we celebrate a victory with the overwhelming passage of legislation that will actually help save lives and turn the tide of a season of terrible loss.” - Doug Griffin, Newton, NH “I would like to tell you what it would mean for me if President supports this bill. My family has been and still is affected by addiction…  I lost my first born son on Christmas morning 2015. The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act will put funding in place to save other children, so other parents will not get the call that shatters their lives. I cannot express the pain that losing a child brings. Only those who have experienced it can understand. And the American people need to know that there is an army of parents with broken hearts that have dedicated their lives to save someone else's child.” - Heather Ruzik, Sweetwater, TN “At the age of 13, my son Nick, opened a 'door' that he alone could never fully close. Despite over 20 in patient drug and alcohol treatment facilities, numerous visits to emergency rooms both medical and mental health, and repeated sober living efforts, he failed. At the age of 26 he died after 13 years of trying desperately to navigate our societies haphazard, fragmented 'system of care'. During those years and the years that have followed, it became apparent to me and all those who loved Nick that we needed to build a comprehensive, coordinated, clinically sound response to this increasing epidemic. I believe CARA is a sound step in that direction that will address this chronic disease that is subject to relapse. For our family and for Nick who experience genuine suffering, CARA is a hopeful shift for the many 'other Nicks' and the families who will follow. Please do what you can to move this bill forward.” -Jim Contopulos, Temecula, CA “The passage of CARA is a welcome step forward in the fight against substance use disorder.  For us it remains bittersweet.  While important, this legislation has been frustratingly slow in evolving.  We have testified before Congressional and Senate committees four times since the accidental overdose of our son William.  We can only wonder that had CARA been in place and properly funded at the end of 2012, would our son have had easier access to more individualized and informed treatment.  Would he be alive today?  While we can take today to celebrate success, we need to be aware that the marathon struggle against this disease is hardly over.  Indeed, we have just crossed the starting line. We continue to have much hard work ahead of us, particularly in removing the stigma, ignorance and outright bigotry surrounding substance use disorder. We will return to speak in Washington and elsewhere until we reach the finish line.  Today cheers us on.  We WILL prevail.” -Bill Williams and Margot Head, New York City, NY “CARA means that my 22 year old has a better chance to survive this horrible disease that is so widespread. It is hard to believe that it is a reality. So many lives have been taken that so many families have suffered. My daughter has been battling for little over three years now with heroin and just like a good part of the addicts it started with pills until she was introduced to another level one that was more affordable.  She has an almost three year old daughter who does not even know who her mom is because I have been raising her since she was 2 months old.  Everyone that seeks help should be given the opportunity to get it regardless of their financial situation.” -Kim Pitman, NJ "Simply put…CARA means lives saved. It means heightened awareness for a public health condition whose population has been largely marginalized for far too long. It means forward-moving progress toward addiction’s integration to main stream medicine and parity overall. It is a call to action among parallel operating systems to initiate intersecting systemic transformation for the good of our future. It represents to me, comfort in the knowledge that this rule may be the primary catalyst of wide-spread prevention for future generations."

-Lauryn Wicks, Mechanicsburg, PA