Capito, Bipartisan Group Introduce Bill to Develop Non-Opioid Pain Treatment Programs

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) and a bipartisan, bicameral group this week introduced the Alternatives to Opioids (ALTO) in the Emergency Department Act, legislation that will help boost hospitals’ resources in the fight against opioid addiction.

“Tackling the opioid epidemic will require an all-hands-on-deck approach, and the ALTO in the Emergency Department Act is another tool that will help in the fight,” Senator Capito said. “Millions of opioid prescriptions are written each year, and a significant portion of opioid overdose deaths involve these prescription opioids. There are alternatives to treating pain that can help save lives, and that is exactly what our bill aims to do. By helping to explore non-opioid pain treatments, I am hopeful this bill will help decrease opioid usage in West Virginia.”

Pain is one of the most common reasons people seek emergency medical attention. More than 200 million opioid prescriptions are written in the United States each year, and 40 percent of opioid overdose deaths involve a prescription opioid. The ALTO in the Emergency Department Act will establish a demonstration program to test alternative pain management protocols to limit the use of opioids in hospital emergency departments. The legislation also provides grant funding to implement these programs. Following the completion of the program, the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) will submit a report to Congress on its results and issue recommendations for broader implementation.

Other original co-sponsors include Senators Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), and Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) and U.S. Representatives Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-N.J.), David McKinley (R-W.Va.), Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), and Scott Tipton (R-Colo.).


As a first line of defense against the opioid epidemic, emergency rooms are well positioned to be laboratories of new innovations and procedures to combat the crisis. At the same time, because of the short-term nature of the care they provide, emergency rooms are often highly susceptible to doctor-shopping – a common practice that involves visiting multiple physicians to acquire multiple prescriptions for illegal use.

Emergency departments in several states have developed effective programs that have drastically reduced the use of opioids. St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Paterson, New Jersey, created the Alternatives to Opiates (ALTO) program, which decreased emergency department opioid prescriptions by nearly 60 percent in its first year alone. The Colorado Hospital Association saw similar success with its program, decreasing opioid usage by 36 percent in six months. 

The ALTO in the Emergency Departments Act is endorsed by the American College of Emergency Physicians, St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center, America’s Essential Hospitals, the New Jersey Hospital Association, and Colorado Hospital Association. 

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