(WASHINGTON, D.C.)—Today, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, the Ranking Member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, announced that all Democratic Members of the House of Representatives from Maryland have co-sponsored landmark legislation he has introduced to address the opioid crisis, H.R. 5545, The Comprehensive Addiction Resources Emergency (CARE) Act.

The bill is now co-sponsored by Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD5), Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD2), Rep. John Sarbanes (D-MD3), Rep. John K. Delaney (D-MD6), Rep. Anthony G. Brown (D-MD4) and Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD8). 

In addition, both Unites States Senators from Maryland, Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen, support the Senate version of the legislation introduced by Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).

In conjunction with today’s announcement, Cummings also released a new report entitled, The Economic Cost of the Opioid Epidemic in Maryland.  The report, which was compiled by the Democratic staff of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, warns:  “In 2016, the economic costs of the opioid epidemic in Maryland was over $21.19 billion.”  The report also finds:  “The number of opioid-related overdose deaths has steadily increased in recent years, with deaths doubling in the past 10 years.”

“In Maryland and many other states across the country, the opioid epidemic is devastating communities, shattering families, and imposing costs of tens of billions of dollars,” Cummings said in a prepared statement.  “This epidemic does not discriminate based on politics.  It is tearing apart families in red states, blue states, and purple states.  It is time for Congress to start treating this crisis like the public health emergency it is, and I am thankful that Maryland is leading the way.”

The CARE Act would provide $100 billion in stable, long-term funding over the next decade to help prevent and treat substance use disorders.  Under the bill

  • Maryland would receive an estimated $48 million per year in state formula grants to fight substance use disorder and the opioid epidemic.
  • In addition, the hardest-hit communities in Maryland—including Baltimore City and 16 counties—would receive an estimated $50.4 million in formula funding directed by the legislation to local jurisdictions on the front lines of the drug crisis. 
  • State first responders, public health departments, and other stakeholders could access $500 million in discounted naloxone, the overdose reversal drug.
  • Maryland and all jurisdictions within the state would be eligible to apply for competitive grants in addition to the formula funds directed to the state and local jurisdictions. 

The CARE Act, which is modeled directly on the bipartisan Ryan White Act passed three decades ago to help combat the HIV/AIDS epidemic, has been endorsed by more than 30 groups representing health care professionals, local governments, and public health advocacy organizations. 

Dr. Leana Wen, the Commissioner of the Baltimore City Health Department, expressed strong support for the bill, stating

“In Baltimore, we are being limited in our ability to save lives.  We need specific and sustained funding, directly to local jurisdictions that are the hardest hit.  Cities and counties are at the forefront of the opioid epidemic.  We know what works.  A ‘Ryan White’ program is what we need to save lives and turn the tide.” 

Thomas Carr, Executive Director of Washington/Baltimore High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, stated:        

“At a time when so many states and localities are suffering from the consequences of our nation’s opioid epidemic, this legislation provides funding to support efficiently and effectively the much-needed services to the individuals and families suffering from substance use disorder. … Allowing multiple, contiguous counties to apply jointly for grant funding reflects Congressman Cummings’ and Senator Warren’s in-depth understanding of the nature of the opioid epidemic.”

The Baltimore Sun also endorsed the CARE Act, stating:

“Prejudice, fear and emotion have again prevented us as a nation from taking the steps necessary to counter a disease that is taking tens of thousands of lives every year in cities and suburbs, small towns and rural communities.  For that reason, we are heartened that Rep. Elijah Cummings and Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts are taking the Ryan White Act as their inspiration for a sweeping new proposal to combat opioid abuse and overdoses.  That landmark legislation from a generation ago provides not only a useful model for how the federal government can effectively counter a public health emergency but also for how public attitudes about a disease wrapped in stigma can and must change.”