U.S. Senator Joe Donnelly along with Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts and Senator Luther Strange have announced a package of legislation aimed at combatting substance use disorders in rural communities. The bills would help these communities by directing a pair of U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) programs to focus their efforts on providing the facilities and access to telemedicine needed to prevent and treat substance use disorder, including the opioid epidemic.
Donnelly said, “This bipartisan package would help us fight back against the opioid epidemic that has harmed rural communities in Indiana and across the country. I’m proud to work with Senate Ag Committee Chairman Roberts and Senator Strange on these bills to expand access to treatment through new facilities and the increased availability of telemedicine. We know that it will take all of us, regardless of party or geography, to confront this public health crisis.”
The package of bills include:
• Community Facilities Direct Loans and Grants, introduced with Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS), Chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee – USDA operates the Community Facilities Direct Loan and Grant program to provide funding to develop essential community facilities in rural areas. These are facilities that provide an essential infrastructure like health care facilities, police stations, and courthouses. The Donnelly-Roberts bill would give priority for applicants to the program who want to develop facilities to provide substance abuse prevention, treatment, and/or recovery services. The bill also would make telemedicine facilities and systems to provide telemedicine for substance use disorder treatment.
Roberts said, “Like many rural states, Kansas is not immune from the growing rise of opioid abuse in this country. From prevention to recovery, this bipartisan legislation will be of enormous benefit to rural Americans and will help provide communities the additional tools they desperately need to battle the rapidly accelerating opioid abuse crisis.”
Matt Perdue of the National Farmers Union said, “Targeted telemedicine investments fill a void for rural communities that lack access to health care facilities and treatment services. As the opioid crisis grips rural communities across the country, this package will provide increased access to vital health care services in many of these areas. NFU applauds Sens. Donnelly, Roberts, and Strange for their work in ensuring rural communities can become more proactive in their response to this crisis.”
Source: Senator Donnelly