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In Louisville Visit, McConnell Touts Anti-Opioids Bill

Mitch McConnell speaking in Louisville.
J. Tyler Franklin
Mitch McConnell speaking in Louisville.

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell visited a Louisville organization Tuesday to talk about federal legislation that would help boost substance abuse treatment programs across the country.

McConnell met with officials from the Louisville chapter of Volunteers of America to discuss the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, or CARA.

The bill would authorize the U.S. Attorney General to award grants to address the national epidemics of prescription opioid abuse and heroin use, which have hit Kentucky and Southern Indiana particularly hard. The Senate overwhelmingly approved the legislation earlier this month, with both McConnell and Sen. Rand Paul voting in favor.

“People like myself and other members of our delegation will be backing up grant applications that will be made from organizations like this to try to help them expand and treat more people," McConnell said Tuesday.

The Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy reported 1,087 overdose deaths in 2014 compared with 1,010 in 2013. Jefferson County had the most overdose deaths of any county last year with 204.

"We're going to keep at this," McConnell said. "I know it's such a burgeoning problem that getting a handle on it is proving to be extremely difficult, but it's going to continue to be a priority."

McConnell has been talking about the issue on a national stage for months. Most recently, he mentioned it during a speech on the Senate floor responding to President Obama's pick for the Supreme Court. He called combating opioid abuse an issue both parties could agree on.

The bill now heads to the House of Representatives, where identical legislation was introduced by Republican Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin. The Senate bill does not actually appropriate the $725 million authorized for prevention and treatment efforts; as McConnell has said, it would be handled through the regular appropriations process.

"So, the Speaker's got a choice," McConnell said Tuesday, referring to House Speaker Paul Ryan. "He can take our bill up, sign it and send it to the president, or if they decide to make some modifications we'll have a quick conference. But I think we'll get it down to the president pretty quickly."