WASHINGTON – Today, Senator Maggie Hassan highlighted the importance of the Student and Student Athlete Opioid Misuse Prevention Act, which was introduced by Senator Jeanne Shaheen and cosponsored by Senator Hassan. The legislation helps combat the heroin, fentanyl, and opioid crisis in New Hampshire and across the country by increasing prevention programs in schools, communities, and youth athletic associations to reduce the risk of opioid misuse among students and student athletes.
Senator Hassan opened by thanking Maureen and Jeff Deutscher of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, for attending the hearing and for sharing the story of their son Nick, an athlete who struggled with a substance use disorder and later died of an overdose after being prescribed opioids for a football-related injury. The Senator asked the President of the National Athletic Trainer’s Association if the funding in the bill to support the training of state and local officials, coaches, and athletic trainers to help them recognize and address substance misuse among students would be helpful to efforts to combat substance misuse. President Scott Sailor responded, “Yes, the National Athletic Trainers’ Association is in full support of this bill and we appreciate that.”
Reflecting on the courage of Granite Staters who have helped break down the stigma of addiction by sharing their stories of substance use disorder, Senator Hassan asked, “does the stigma and maybe the fear of being sidelined prevent student athletes or professional athletes from acknowledging a dependency on opioids?” Lauryn Williams, True Sport Ambassador from the United States Anti-Doping Agency replied, “I definitely think that the stigma is a problem and something that we need to address. I think the way that we address it is by outreach, educating from the grassroots level all the way up into the professional level […] starting the conversation before it becomes a problem.”
Senator Hassan also highlighted that the Student and Student Athlete Opioid Misuse Prevention Act would authorize federal grant funding to enhance opioid misuse education and prevention efforts, and asked the panel if “further resources and dedicated funding would help in the work [members of the panel] are doing to meet the tough challenges associated with opioid addiction.” Dr. Jay Clarence Butler, Chief Medical Officer of the Alaska Department of Health and Human Services, responded highlighting the “importance of support to the National Institute of Health (NIH) to address new knowledge […] and also the critical importance of education and using the knowledge that we already have, much of which is implemented through agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and SAMHSA.”