The Senate can take action to prevent overdoses and fight illicit fentanyl

Statement of Libby Jones, Program Director of the Overdose Prevention Initiative, Global Health Advocacy Incubator

July 25, 2022

Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released the Vital Signs report, detailing the staggering loss of life to the overdose crisis the United States experienced in 2020. The CDC presented new insights that detailed the already-known death toll, sharing that fentanyl and polysubstance use spurred the sharp rise in overdose deaths. Most notably, the report underscores the immense and disproportionate toll the overdose crisis has had on minority communities. Black and Indigenous Americans saw the greatest increase in overdose mortality rate, 44% and 39% respectively, largely due to income inequality and inaccessibility of treatment. Sadly, the CDC also found that most people who died by overdose had not received substance use disorder treatment before their deaths. 

Tomorrow (July 26), the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pension (HELP) Committee will conduct a hearing on the effects of fentanyl on the United States. Viewers will likely hear pointed questions about the Biden Administration’s efforts to stop the flow of fentanyl into the country. Efforts to control illicit supply of these drugs are critical, but equally important to ending the overdose crisis are policies aimed at decreasing demand for those drugs. The HELP Committee must also focus on treatment and recovery for the millions of Americans with opioid use disorder, some of whom are presented with so few options for treatment that illicit opioids, which may contain fentanyl, are easier to obtain than evidence-based, FDA-approved medications for opioid use disorder.

“The Senate’s focus on fentanyl reflects the reality presented by the CDC last week,” said Libby Jones, Project Director of the Overdose Prevention Initiative. “The Senate can act by passing the multiple pieces of legislation in front of them, many of which would increase access to lifesaving treatment and have broad, bipartisan support.”  

In June, the U.S. House of Representatives passed Restoring Hope for Mental Health and Well-Being Act of 2022, which contained the Mainstreaming Addiction Treatment (MAT) Act Amendment. The MAT Act would remove a federal barrier to prescribing buprenorphine and improve access to the lifesaving medication for thousands of Americans. Now, it is incumbent on the Senate to pass their version of the legislation that includes the MAT Act. The Overdose Prevention Initiative at GHAI will continue to advocate for passage of the policy and calls on the Senate HELP Committee to do everything in their power to end the overdose crisis.

Established in 2021, the Overdose Prevention Initiative at the Global Health Advocacy Incubator advances policy solutions that save lives and end the U.S. overdose crisis. The Initiative is dedicated to reducing inequities and disparities in substance use disorder care and expanding access to harm reduction services and substance use disorder treatment.

The Overdose Prevention Initiative is funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies and is a partnership between the Global Health Advocacy Incubator and the Tobacco Free Kids Action Fund.

For questions, please contact Ben Orton-Vipond at