Thom’s Focus on
Health Care

Thom has focused on health care reforms to ensure North Carolina families have access to affordable and quality health care choices. Thom has also worked on real bipartisan solutions to combat drug addiction and advance medical research and innovation.

Combatting the Nation’s Opioid Addiction Crisis

Thom has worked across the aisle on solutions to counter North Carolina’s growing opioid addiction epidemic. In 2016 alone, 1,505 North Carolinians died from opioid-related overdoses, more than the number who died from automobile accidents.

Thom was a staunch advocate for the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, landmark bipartisan legislation signed into law by President Obama in 2016 that brings together the experiences and recommendations of drug addiction experts, law enforcement, health care providers, first responders, and the patient community most affected by the opioid epidemic. The law also addresses the strain the addiction crisis places on our criminal justice system by providing more resources to identify and treat incarcerated Americans, helping put them on the path to recovery, which in turn could lower the nation’s recidivism and crime rates.

In 2018, Thom advocated for the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act, another piece of landmark bipartisan legislation to combat the national opioid crisis, which was signed into law by President Trump. The bipartisan law aims to stop illegal drug smuggling at the border, makes it easier for more medical professionals to treat people in recovery to prevent relapse and overdoses, and provides support for comprehensive opioid recovery centers.

Thom also held a roundtable in Fayetteville to examine the ways in which the Department of Defense, VA, and civilian health systems are utilizing best practices in the pain management area, especially those that decrease the likelihood of dependence, abuse, or overdose. Thom then worked to ensure several of the ideas presented in this forum were included in the FY19 National Defense Authorization Act that was ultimately signed into law.

Drug addiction doesn’t discriminate based on one’s gender, race, or socio-economic status. There are CEOs of companies, straight-A students, and PTA parents who have suffered from opioid addiction. It’s having crippling consequences in our inner cities and suburbs, while also wreaking havoc in the tight-knit communities of our rural areas.

Senator Thom Tillis

The Charlotte Observer

Our nation needs smart, commonsense approaches such as the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act. However, we must be honest in recognizing that success will be neither quick nor easy. Addiction is a vicious and devastating cycle of abuse and despair. It affects us all. The fight against addiction is one we must wage together, and one we cannot afford to lose.

Senator Thom Tillis

The Charlotte Observer

Protecting Health Care for North Carolinians with Pre-existing Conditions

While the Affordable Care Act has caused health care premiums to skyrocket and has cut down on the choices offered to patients, Thom believes we must protect health care coverage for Americans with pre-existing conditions.

When the fate of pre-existing conditions protections was in limbo due to a court case, Thom took action by introducing the Ensuring Coverage for Patients with Pre-Existing Conditions Act, legislation that would guarantee Americans have equal health care coverage, regardless of their health status or pre-existing conditions. The legislation prohibits discrimination against beneficiaries based on health status, including the prohibition against increased premiums for beneficiaries due to pre-existing conditions.

There are strong opinions on both sides when it comes to how we should overhaul our nation’s broken health care system, but the one thing we can all agree on is that we should protect health care for Americans with pre-existing conditions and ensure they have access to quality coverage.

Senator Thom Tillis

Finding a Cure for Cancer and Other Diseases

Thom was a strong advocate for the 21st Century Cures Act, bipartisan legislation signed into law by President Obama. The 21st Century Cures Act increases funding for Alzheimer’s and cancer research, strengthens and improves important mental health programs, and gives additional money to fight the opioid crisis across the nation.

Preserving Health Insurance for Children

Senator Tillis is a strong supporter of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (also known as CHIP), a vital program that provides health care coverage to children whose families cannot afford private coverage but cannot qualify for Medicaid.

Thom has repeatedly voted to extend funding for CHIP, ensuring that approximately 200,000 children in North Carolina continue to receive their health insurance through the program.

Additionally, Senator Tillis supports allowing dependents, including young adults, to remain on their parents’ health insurance plan until they are 26 years old.

Preventing and Treating Alzheimer’s

As the former caregiver of a loved one with Alzheimer’s Disease, Thom has worked to ensure Congress is doing everything possible to support the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) goal of preventing and effectively treating Alzheimer’s by 2025. Thom has worked across the aisle to introduce legislation and support efforts to increase federal funding for research.

Finding a cure to Alzheimer’s disease is a goal that is very near and dear to my heart. Along with my mother and two aunts, I was a caregiver to my grandmother who developed this terrible, debilitating disease. I am all too familiar with the painful reality of “the long goodbye,” the process of seeing your loved one gradually lose their entire life’s memory, and with it, their unique personality and ability to perform even the most basic independent functions.

Senator Thom Tillis

Winston Salem Journal
  • Thom has repeatedly lobbied the Trump administration to increase funding for Alzheimer’s research in the President’s annual budget request.
  • Thom was a strong supporter of the 21st Century Cures Act, which provides $1.8 billion to the NIH for the BRAIN Initiative to improve our understanding of diseases like Alzheimer’s and speed diagnosis and treatment.
  • Thom is a co-sponsor of the Building Our Largest Dementia (BOLD) Infrastructure for Alzheimer’s Act, bipartisan legislation that would, for the first time, create a public health infrastructure across the country to combat Alzheimer’s disease and preserve brain health. The BOLD Act unanimously passed the Senate and was signed into law in late 2018.
  • Thom joined Senators Grassley (R-IA) and Schumer (D-NY) to introduce Kevin and Avonte’s Law, bipartisan legislation to help families locate missing loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease, autism, and related conditions. This legislation was signed into law in early 2019.
  • Thom co-sponsored the Ensuring Useful Research Expenditures is Key for Alzheimer’s (EUREKA) Act, which creates incentives to encourage more public-private collaboration in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease, which became law.

Working to Improve
Mental Health Care

Thom has been outspoken on the need to destigmatize mental health issues and ensure we treat mental health with the same vigor and empathy we treat physical health.

Mental Health and Well-Being in America: A view from Capitol Hill

Mental Health Reforms in the 21st Century Act

Thom co-sponsored the Mental Health Reform Act, bipartisan legislation providing vital reforms to mental health funding to increase patient access to effective and evidence-based care. Thom worked with his colleagues to secure mental health language from the bill into the 21st Century Cures Act, which was successfully enacted into law. Mental health provisions included in the 21st Century Cures Act include:

  • Integration between physical and mental health – Widens state eligibility for grants to promote integration between primary and behavioral health care for individuals with mental illness along with co-occurring physical health conditions.
  • Improving access to children’s mental health care – Establishes a grant program focused on intensive early intervention for infants and young children who are at risk of developing mental illness. The bill also ensures children covered by Medicaid have access to the full range of early and periodic screening, diagnostic, and treatment services.
  • Strengthening suicide prevention – Continues the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Program and provides information and training for suicide prevention, surveillance, and intervention strategies. The bill establishes suicide prevention and intervention program grants for adults and also reauthorizes Youth Suicide Early Intervention and Prevention Strategies grants to states and tribal communities.

Supporting North Carolina’s Community Health Centers

Thom supports Community Health Centers (CHC) and the major role they play in providing health care to the underserved and rural communities in North Carolina, including services such as mental health and substance abuse treatment, counseling, and staffing. When the Community Health Center Fund (CHCF) expired in 2017, more than 27 million patients, including 330,000 veterans, 8 million children, and over 10,000 sites nationwide faced potential site closures, job cuts, and most importantly, drastic limitations to health care access. In 2017, in North Carolina alone, 559,115 patients, including 125,033 children, received critical services from CHCs.

Thom recognized how the lack of CHCF reauthorization jeopardized access to care for the most vulnerable North Carolinians and created difficulties for CHCs to plan moving forward. Thom quickly joined a bipartisan group of 66 colleagues to urge Senate leadership to immediately reauthorize funding for CHCs.

Prioritizing Veterans Access to Mental Health Care

  • Thom co-sponsored the Prioritizing Veterans’ Access to Mental Health Care Act of 2017. North Carolina is home to nearly 800,000 veterans and we tragically lose 20 veterans across the nation a day to suicide. One of Thom’s top priorities is to deliver on the mental health needs of the many brave men and women who have served our nation. This legislation is an important step towards getting more mental health professionals into the VA system and giving veterans the ability to quickly access mental health services when the VA cannot meet their needs.
  • Thom co-sponsored S. 167, the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans (SAV) Act, which was signed into law in 2015 by President Obama. The law directs the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to conduct annual evaluations of the Department’s mental health care and suicide prevention programs to gauge their effectiveness and make improvements or changes. It also creates a community pilot program to help veterans in their transition from active duty and improve their access to mental health care services. Thom has continued his mission to work on a bipartisan basis improving the delivery, quality, and efficiency of care at VA facilities in North Carolina and across the country.

Advancing Mental Health Solutions in midst of the National Opioid Crisis

Thom advocated for the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act, which was subsequently signed into law by President Trump. Within its multi-pronged approach to the opioid epidemic, the legislation also provides real solutions to mental health problems. Thom supported measures to:

  • Establish comprehensive opioid recovery centers for communities.
  • Support local workforce boards and partnerships in tackling substance use disorder and mental health treatment workforce shortages.
  • Provide behavioral and mental health services at school or other community-based settings located in a health professional shortage area.
  • Create grants that link educational agencies with mental health systems in order to increase student access to evidence-based trauma support services to help prevent and mitigate trauma that children and youth experience.
  • Provide coordinated job training and treatment services in affected areas.

Assisting Servicemembers and Veterans with Post Traumatic Stress and Traumatic Brain Injury

Thom has focused on improving access to mental health services for veterans, including those with Post-Traumatic Stress or Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). Thom co-sponsored legislation that prioritizes access to mental health care by providing incentives to hire more mental health care professionals at the VA and granting veterans instant authorization of non-VA care if the veteran provides an electronic or hard-copy statement that they are not receiving adequate or timely mental health care at VA facilities.

Thom also joined his colleagues to introduce bipartisan legislation to help veterans who may have been erroneously given a less than honorable discharge from the military due to negative behavior resulting from mental traumas such as Post-Traumatic Stress or TBI. The bipartisan legislation was codified into law.

Additionally, Thom held a Senate Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee hearing examining the way in which the DOD and VA prevent, diagnose, and treat TBI, PTSD, and related mental health conditions.