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Bill Nelson urges Senate not to undo progress combating opioid abuse

11 U.S. senators reintroduce LifeBOAT Act to fund substance abuse treatment

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(CNN)

WASHINGTON – Florida Sen. Bill Nelson urged his colleagues Wednesday not to take up any legislation that would undo the recent progress made to combat the nation’s growing opioid epidemic. 

Nelson’s comments came as the House prepared to vote on a new health care bill that would reduce federal funding for Medicaid, which funds one-fourth of the country’s substance abuse programs.

Congress voted last year to provide additional funding to help fight the growing epidemic after more than 2,000 Floridians died in 2015 from an opioid overdose.

“A lot of us, including this senator, voted to provide additional funding to start implementing this crucial new law to fight the opioid addictions,” Nelson said. “And despite this progress, now the House tomorrow – probably tomorrow night -- is about to pass legislation that would completely undermine last year's bipartisan efforts to respond to the epidemic.”

Nelson is one of 11 Democratic senators who have reintroduced the Budgeting for Opioid Addiction Treatment Act (LifeBOAT Act), a measure establishing a permanent funding stream to provide and expand access to substance abuse treatment.

The LifeBOAT Act would establish a 1-cent tax on each milligram of active opioid ingredient in a prescription pain pill to fund treatment efforts. The bill also includes a rebate program for cancer-related pain and hospice care, and exempts drugs used exclusively for the treatment of opioid addiction.