- Associated Press - Thursday, February 18, 2016

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) - U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse said Thursday there’s momentum in Congress to pass the nation’s first comprehensive approach to addressing addiction.

The Rhode Island Democrat visited a substance abuse treatment agency in Providence to discuss the push for a bipartisan bill he authored to help states prevent drug abuse, treat addiction and reduce overdose deaths.

“It reaches across the entire field of the needs that people have when they are in recovery or facing an addiction,” he said. “Given what people are seeing here in Rhode Island and across the country, it’s finally its moment.”

The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act passed the Senate Judiciary Committee last week and it’s expected to reach the Senate floor for a vote.

U.S. Rep. David Cicilline, also a Rhode Island Democrat, said the bill could help millions of people access treatment and prevent others from becoming addicted. He co-sponsored companion legislation in the House.

“This has life and death consequences for people all across this country,” he said.

The bill would establish a task force to develop best prescribing practices, authorize a national education campaign to prevent drug abuse and promote treatment, and offer grants for communities struggling with high rates of drug abuse to adopt prevention strategies.

It would also expand treatment alternatives to incarceration and expand educational opportunities for those who are incarcerated, support youth, pregnant women and mothers who are recovering from substance abuse, and make the overdose-reversal drug naloxone more readily available, among many strategies in the bill for combatting addiction.

Rhode Island had more than 200 confirmed accidental overdose deaths last year. Whitehouse and Cicilline visited the Phoenix House in Providence, where residents told the lawmakers how grateful they are for the services there.

Julia Jones-Porter, who was recently discharged from the house, said she thinks it’s fantastic the bill could help more people get treatment.

“It’s a long time coming,” she said.

Whitehouse is negotiating over funding for the programs in the bill.

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