FEDERAL LEGISLATION TO FIGHT THE OPIOID CRISIS
- August 19, 2018
In June of 2018, U.S. House of Representatives passed the most expansive legislative action Congress has taken to date to address the opioid crisis. In a truly surprising 396-14 bipartisan vote, 58 bills were passed over the course of two weeks in a package called Substance Use-Disorder Prevention that Promotes Opioid Recovery and Treatment (SUPPORT) for Patients and Communities Act. Some of the issues addressed include expanding access to treatment and recovery services, coming up with alternatives to addictive opioids for pain treatment, intercepting illegal opioids through the postal service, and combating the use of fentanyl.
Perhaps it’s not so surprising after all that representatives on both sides of the aisle were able to come to an agreement, considering that the opioid crisis is one of the biggest concerns of all their constituents. According to the Centers for Disease Control, in 2016 there were more than 63,600 overdose deaths in the United States, including 42,249 that involved an opioid. That works out to an average of 115 opioid overdose deaths every day.
One important provision in the legislation would allow Medicaid to pay for treatment in certain inpatient facilities that also treat mental illnesses for up to 30 days. This applies to both opioid treatment and treatment for crack cocaine. Another part of the bill is called Jessie’s Law, a measure that will help make sure that medical professionals have full knowledge of their patients’ previous opioid addiction. It’s named after a woman named Jessica Grubb, who was hospitalized in 2016 for surgery related to running injuries. Despite the fact that her parents had told hospital personnel that she had a substance abuse problem, her doctor never received this information and she was given 50 oxycodone pills upon discharge. She overdosed and died the next day.
Some of the other included bills are:
- The Ensuring Access to Quality Sober Living Act of 2018, which will give authority to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to “develop, publish, and disseminate best practices for operating recovery housing that promotes a safe environment to sustained recovery.”
- The Synthetic Drug Awareness Act of 2018, which will require the U.S Surgeon General to submit a comprehensive report on the public health effects that synthetic drug use has had on youth.
- The Safe Disposal and Unused Medication Act, which will allow hospice employees to remove and dispose of controlled substances that remain unused after the death of a patient.
- The Comprehensive Opioid Recovery Centers Act of 2018, which will establish a grant program to create comprehensive opioid recovery centers.
The legislation moved on to the Senate, where committees are working on their own opioid-related packages. They are expected to reconcile the two bills and have something ready for presidential approval by the end of the year.
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