WH Applauds Senate Passage of Bipartisan Opioid Legislation

By Melanie Arter | September 18, 2018 | 12:17pm EDT

(CNSNews.com) - With a vote of 99 to 1, the Senate on Monday passed what is considered landmark legislation to stop opioid addiction through the Opioid Crisis Response Act of 2018.

The White House commended the Senate for passing its amendment to H.R. 6., calling the “critical” bipartisan measure “a major step forward in the whole-of-government approach to combating drug demand and the opioid crisis.”

“This bill would help reduce the amount of illicit fentanyl entering the United States, improve treatment for infants suffering from neonatal abstinence syndrome, create job training programs for those in recovery, and reauthorize the Office of National Drug Control Policy to continue overseeing Federal drug control efforts, including public awareness initiatives targeted to individuals of all age groups,” the White House said in a statement.

“The President and his Administration continue to work toward and implement effective policies to address the opioid crisis and save lives. The Administration looks forward to working with both chambers as the legislative process continues to get a bill to the President’s desk to mitigate this crisis next door,” the statement added.

There are 10 key provision to the bill: the STOP ACT, which stops illegal drugs, including fentanyl, at the border; research and fast-track new non-addictive painkillers; 3 or 7 day blister packs for opioids; more medication-assisted treatment; prevent “doctor-shopping” by improving state prescription drug monitoring programs; more behavioral and mental health providers, support for comprehensive opioid recovery centers; help for babies born with opioid withdrawal; help for mothers with opioid use disorders; and more early intervention for children who experienced trauma.

Senate Health Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), the bill’s sponsor, said he is “already working to combine the Senate and House-passed bills into an even stronger law to fight the nation’s worst public health crisis, and there is a bipartisan sense of urgency to send the bill to the President quickly.”

“Helping people suffering at the hands of an opioid addiction has been one of the great causes of this Congress, and I’m glad to see the Senate do its part to get us closer to the finish line. The House and Senate measures share the same goals,” House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said in a statement.

“We direct federal agencies to create and expand community programs to increase access to treatment. We authorize grants to support recovery centers. And we prioritize stopping the flow of synthetic opioids into the country by closing shipping loopholes in the United States Postal Service,” he said.

“Ultimately, we have to attack the root cause of this crisis, which are the opioids themselves—but these are important steps to take toward that goal. I’m proud of the progress Congress has made on this urgent legislation, and I look forward to working with the Senate to get a final bill to the president’s desk soon,” Ryan added.

While the American Hospital Association said it was “encouraged” by the passage of the legislation, its executive vice president Tom Nickels said, “we are extremely disappointed that the Senate failed to include in its legislation two provisions that would expand access to treatment and improve the coordination and safety of care.

“The bipartisan Overdose Prevention and Patient Safety Act (H.R. 6082/S. 1850) would improve communication related to vital substance use disorder (SUD) treatment information. It passed the House overwhelmingly because it eliminates barriers to coordinated care for people with SUDs, while increasing penalties for inappropriate sharing of information and protecting those same patients from discrimination,” Nickels said in a statement.

“The Senate bill also fails to address the Institutions for Mental Disease (IMD) exclusion, the law that prohibits states from using federal Medicaid funds for the care of patients 21-64 years old in residential mental health or SUD treatment facilities with more than 16 beds. The House passed bipartisan legislation to provide for up to 30 days per year for opioid and cocaine use disorder treatment services in an IMD,” Nickels added.

“As Congressional leaders work to resolve the differences between the House and Senate versions, America’s hospitals and healthy systems strongly urge them to ensure that the final product includes the House-passed Overdose Prevention and Patient Safety Act and fix the IMD exclusion. We will continue to work with Congress to ensure we have the tools needed to respond to this multi-faceted epidemic that is impacting virtually every community in our nation, and we look forward to enactment of comprehensive legislation that addresses these key priorities,” he said.

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