Tuesday, U.S. Senator Joe Donnelly received the ‘Legislator of the Year’ award from the National Council for Behavioral Health for his efforts to address the opioid and substance use disorder epidemics in Indiana and across the country. The National Council for Behavioral Health specifically highlighted Donnelly’s bipartisan Strengthening the Addiction treatment and Workforce Act, introduced in June with Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), which would provide incentives for providers to practice at substance use disorder treatment facilities in underserved areas.
Donnelly said, “I’m honored to receive this award from the National Council for Behavioral Health. After traveling across Indiana and meeting with doctors, nurses, counselors, and other health care professionals, it is clear that we need more substance use and addiction specialists to help Hoosiers battling addiction to opioids and other dangerous substances. My bipartisan legislation would increase the number of providers trained to help people get the treatment they need. As I have long said, it is going to take all of us working together to effectively combat the opioid abuse epidemic and, while we are making some progress, we still have a lot of work to do.”
Linda Rosenberg, President and CEO of the National Council for Behavioral Health, said, “We are pleased to call Senator Joe Donnelly a Legislator of the Year for introducing, with Senator Lisa Murkowski, the Strengthening the Addiction Treatment Workforce Act. His bill will help those battling an addiction find a road to recovery. We are grateful to him, and we look forward to supporting his efforts.”
Matt Brooks, President and CEO, Indiana Council of Community Mental Health Centers and Board Member, National Council for Behavioral Health, said, “Senator Donnelly’s work to address the opioid crisis in Indiana has been exemplary. Through his efforts at both a state and federal level, individuals suffering from opioid addiction and mental health issues have improved access to treatment. His contributions to Hoosiers will be long lasting and we laud his efforts.”
In Indiana, 59 counties are considered underserved for primary care and 52 counties are underserved for mental health care, according to the Indiana State Department of Health. The National Council for Behavioral Health is an association of health care organizations that provide mental health and addictions treatment and services. It is made up of 2,900 member organizations across the country, including nearly 30 organizations in Indiana.
For more than three years, as Indiana has been devastated by the opioid abuse and heroin use epidemics, Donnelly has actively and effectively fought for new efforts to support prevention, treatment, and recovery programs. He helped get passed and signed into law the 21st Century Cures Act, which includes a $10.9 million federal grant that will support prevention, treatment, and recovery services in Indiana. Donnelly also helped enact the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), which included several of his provisions. Recently he introduced a bipartisan package of legislation aimed at combatting opioid abuse in rural communities, along with Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (R-KS) and Senator Luther Strange (R-AL.) Earlier this year, Donnelly brought Dr. Tim Kelly, a leading practitioner of addiction medicine in Indianapolis and thought leader in the fight against the opioid epidemic, to President Trump’s Joint Address before Congress. He invited Dr. Kelly to highlight the critical work he and other providers are doing across Indiana on the frontlines to help treat Hoosiers battling opioid addiction and other dangerous substances.