Thom’s Focus on
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
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
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
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:
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
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:
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.