WASHINGTON, D.C.- Touting the success of the Alternatives to Opiates (ALTO) program, Congressman Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ-09) announced the introduction of legislation to provide hospitals across the country additional resources to fight opioid addiction. 

Under the legislation, St. Joseph Medical Center’s ALTO program, which has led to a 60 percent decrease in emergency department opioid prescriptions in the first year, would become a national model.

According to a joint statement released by a bipartisan group of members of the House of Representatives and the US Senate, over 100 people die each day from opioid overdose. 40 percent of these deaths, the reports reads, involved a prescribed opioid. 

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“I believe this will be a critical step in fighting the opioid scourge that is devastating communities across my district and the nation,” said Pascrell. “Pioneered at St. Joseph’s Medical Center in my hometown, their approach has shown dramatic results in keeping unnecessary opioids out of patients’ hands. Our legislation would take the St. Joe’s ALTO model nationwide, providing emergency rooms across the country with a blueprint for preventing countless overdoses from happening in the first place.”

Saying that the short-term nature of the care they provide makes them “susceptible to doctor-shopping,” a term used to describe the practice of obtaining multiple prescriptions from various providers, the statement reads that emergency rooms are “well positioned to be laboratories of new innovations and procedures to combat the crisis.”

“Our nation’s opioid epidemic continues to cause extraordinary pain and suffering, and is tearing families and communities apart,” said Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ). “To combat this public health crisis we need to invest in promising, innovative models. Our bipartisan bill, built on the success of a program in New Jersey, would not only help prevent addiction by reducing the number of opioid prescriptions written in emergency rooms, but it would also help us better understand safe and effective alternatives to prescribing opioids.”   

In addition to establishing the ALTO model as a national framework for cutting the use of opioids, the legislation would also provide grant funding to hospitals to build the program and require the Secretary of Health and Human Services to submit a report to Congress on the results of the program and issue recommendations for broader implementation.