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2016-3-11

SENATE PASSES BILL KAINE COSPONSORED TO FIGHT OPIOID ABUSE EPIDEMIC

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Tim Kaine praised passage of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), a bill that will help expand opioid abuse prevention and education efforts. The bill takes a comprehensive approach toaddressing a crisis that claimed more lives in Virginia in 2014 than vehicle crashes. It also includes a bipartisan amendment that Kaine introduced to help protect seniors who are vulnerable to medication abuse.  

“Across Virginia, we continue to see the tragic consequences of opioid abuse on our communities. I hear from parents who lost children to overdoses, law enforcement officers who face increased drug-related crimes, and people coping with addiction who struggle to get help. Their stories led me to fight this epidemic at the federal level andwe saw today that there is a strong consensus in the Senate that we must act. This bill will increase drug treatment services to help get people back on their feet and give first responders and law enforcement the resources they need to save lives. I look forward to continue working in the Senate to advance commonsense legislation that can build on the measures in today’s bill,” Kaine said.

Kaine’s amendment to protect seniors from medication abuse was cosponsored by U.S. Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Pat Toomey (R-PA) and Rob Portman (R-OH) and is based on legislation he introduced last August called the Stopping Medication Abuse and Protecting Seniors Act. The amendment, which is included inCARA, authorizes Medicare Advantage and Medicare Part D prescription plans to utilize a patient review and restriction tool, or ”lock-in” measure. This measure would help identify individuals at risk of addiction, connect them with resources, and restrict them to one pharmacy and one provider when accessing controlled substances. Kaine, a member of the Senate Special Committee on Aging, held a field hearing in Loudoun County last month to examine the ongoing fight against opioid misuse and abuse among older Americans.

Kaine has been a leading voice in the Senate on the importance of addressing the opioid abuse crisis that has had a harmful impact on Virginia communities. Last November, he introduced the Co-prescribing Saves Lives Act, a bipartisan bill that would encourage physicians to co-prescribe the life-saving drug Naloxone alongside opioid prescriptions and would make it more widely available in federal health settings. The bill is scheduled to be marked up by members of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee next week. He is also a cosponsor of the Jason Simcakoski Memorial Opioid Safety Act, bipartisan reform legislation aimed at providing safer and more effective pain management services through the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA).

Nationwide, heroin and opioids account for approximately 25,000 deaths per year. CARA will expand the availability of Naloxone to first responders and law enforcement. The overdose antidote has reversed more than 26,000 overdose cases between 1996 and 2014. CARA will also support additional resources to identify and treat incarcerated individuals struggling with substance use disorders, expand drug take-back efforts to promote safe disposal of unused or unwanted prescriptions, strengthen prescription drug monitoring programs, and launch prescription opioid and heroin treatment and intervention programs.

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The Costs and Value of Higher Education

According to U.S. Census Data, only 24.5% of people older than 25 years in 1940 had completed high school. At that time, people without a high school diploma could still earn family-sustaining wages. By the mid-1960s, more than half of all people over the age of 25 held a high school diploma, and increasingly that credential was needed to secure stable employment.  Today, a high-school education isn’t enough. Employers often demand postsecondary credentials.

Many recent studies have reported that people with any level of higher education generally have a greater earnings potential than others. Research also shows that they have better perceptions of personal health and well-being, demonstrate increased levels of volunteerism, and are more likely to vote.

Although these benefits are known, a crisis looms over America’s higher education system. Indebtedness for education loans currently totals more than $1.2 trillion. This is more than the amount owed on all credit cards combined. It is more than the total amount owed on auto loans. In fact, student debt is the second largest category of debt in the United States. Only mortgage debt surpasses it. Increasingly, college graduates are unable to achieve independent lifestyles or make the types of purchases (such as cars and homes) that have traditionally been associated with moving the economy forward.

Community colleges play a vital role in creating a solution. Virginia’s community colleges offer high-quality academic programs at tuition rates that are generally less than half those charged by other types of public higher-education institutions. Furthermore, students who can pursue their studies while still living at home save on room and board charges, and these added fees can nearly double the cost of attending a four-year college or university.

Here at Southside Virginia Community College, we offer a comprehensive array of accredited post-secondary programs that lead to Associate in Arts and Science degrees, Associate in Applied Science degrees, and other industry-recognized credentials. For students who plan to continue an education path leading to baccalaureate and advanced degrees, SVCC simplifies the process through transfer and guaranteed admissions agreements with more than 20 other colleges and universities. Additionally, SVCC’s dual enrollment program allows high-achieving students to meet the requirements for high school graduation while simultaneously earning college credit. For students and their families, this represents a chance to reduce future college expenses.

If you have questions about admission, visit SVCC’s website at www.southside.edu or call one of the two main campuses: the Christanna Campus in Alberta (434-949-1000) or the Daniel Campus in Keysville (434-736-2000). To learn more about financial aid solutions that do not rely on loans and indebtedness, call SVCC’s financial aid office at 855-877-3943. For details about dual enrollment, call 434-736-2080. Early registration for the Fall 2016 semester begins on April 1.

Dr. Al Roberts is president of Southside Virginia Community College, an institution of higher learning that provides a wide variety of education opportunities to a diverse student population within a service area that spans ten counties and the city of Emporia. He can be reached via email at al.roberts@southside.edu.

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