In a political climate in which we find ourselves so viscerally divided; so entrenched in our ways of thinking; so immovable that we often can’t even make the most basic concessions, the United States Senate passed one piece of legislation this month with overwhelming consensus. What was the issue on which our intensely partisan legislature finally decided to come together? Opioid addiction. Sponsored by Senator Lamar Alexander, R-Tennessee, the new comprehensive opioid addiction bill addresses the macro and immediate factors surrounding the public health crisis that claims the lives of more and more Americans each year. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) opioids were involved in over 60,000 of the 70,000-plus overdose deaths in 2017.
What’s In the Bill?
The Opioid Crisis Response Bill is probably the most sweeping and comprehensive opioid addiction bill the United States has seen to date. It’s an all-hands-on-deck reaction to the opioid that addresses everything from over-the-border drug trafficking to treatment accessibility and more resources for prevention and enforcement. The nearly $8 billion piece of legislation distributes money among the CDC, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the Administration for Children and Families and other specific agencies within the Department of Health and Human Services and includes such measures as:
- Granting $500 million over the 2019-2023 period for the Department of Labor to establish a grant program to alleviate the economic and workforce effects of opioid abuse
- Authorizing $1.5 billion over the 2019-2021 period for grants to states and Indian tribes to respond to the opioid abuse crisis
- Directing the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to modify and strengthen its oversight of opioids and other controlled substances and medications that are used to manage pain
- Establishing the Synthetics Trafficking and Overdose Prevention Act (STOP) act which mandates the United States Postal Service to do more to combat the flow of illegal synthetic opioids through the mail
The last provision in the list involves an update of USPS infrastructure to better cooperate with the Department of Homeland Security. The bill also would require drug manufacturers to enact new methods of disposal and new packaging for their products.
Bolstering Treatment Resources and Opioid Recovery
Perhaps the most critical part of the opioid bill is the provisions it puts in place for expanding treatment resources. The legislation earmarks $10 million for the creation and support of new treatment centers and increase housing, job training, and medically supervised withdrawal management and detox to substance use disorder victims. Finally, and perhaps most importantly for children born to addicted parents, the bill establishes a new trauma taskforce to help children and babies who feel the direct and indirect impact of their parents’ substance use. The legislation was passed just in time for this year’s National Recovery Month.
A Truly Bipartisan Effort
This opioid addiction bill is the product of over 70 proposals submitted by five different committees engaging in months of preparation. It’s one of the clearest and most encouraging indicators that our lawmakers fully understand the scope and breadth of the opioid addiction crisis and the diverse issues that surround it.