“The Single Largest Bill To Combat Drug Crisis”
The legislation includes more than 70 law changes tackling a wide range of opioid-related issues, including closing some legal loopholes that have allowed the drugs to proliferate and made it harder for those who are addicted to get treatment.
Does The Legislation Go Far Enough?
Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, spoke to NPR ahead of the bill signing. He was a leading proponent of the legislation in the Senate.
“This bill is a major victory for Ohio and for the country because it will strengthen the federal government’s response to the opioid crisis. Importantly, this bill will increase access to long-term treatment and recovery while also helping stop the flow of deadly synthetic drugs like fentanyl from being shipped into the United States through our own Postal Service. It will help in terms of both reducing some of this poison coming into our communities, but it also helps with regard to getting people into treatment,” Portman said.
Despite the wide-reaching changes in the new law, some medical advocates have criticized the legislation for not going far enough. The law does not, for example, appropriate funding to dramatically expand the availability of addiction treatment, which experts often say is necessary to curb the opioid epidemic.
Even while the changes are mostly positive, according to the experts and activists I spoke with. But Dr. Leana Wen, the former health commissioner of Baltimore said that the legislation “is simply tinkering around the edges,” and that a far more comprehensive, ambitious response is needed to really deal with the crisis.
A Breakdown Of The Legislation
To read the full legislation, you can go here, however here are some of the major changes in the new policy:
- Reauthorizes funding from the Cures Act, which put $500 million a year toward the opioid crisis, and makes tweaks to hopefully give states more flexibility in using the funding.
- Creates a grant program for “Comprehensive Opioid Recovery Centers,” which will attempt to serve the addiction treatment and recovery needs of their communities.
- Lifts restrictions on medications for opioid addiction, allowing more types of health care practitioners to prescribe the drugs.
- Expands an existing program that attempts to get more first responders, such as police and firefighters, to carry and use naloxone, a medication that reverses opioid overdoses.
- Allows federal agencies to pursue more research projects related to addiction and pain.
- Makes several changes to Medicare and Medicaid to attempt to limit the overprescription of opioid painkillers within the programs and expand access to addiction treatment, including lifting some of the current restrictions that make it harder for Medicare and Medicaid to pay for addiction treatment.
- Advances new initiatives to educate and raise awareness about proper pain treatment among health care providers.
- Attempts to improve coordination between different federal agencies to stop illicit drugs like fentanyl at the border, and gives agencies more tools to improve detection and testing at border checks.
- Increases penalties for drug manufacturers and distributors related to the overprescribing of opioids.
While the new legislation will save lives and help curb the ongoing crisis, will it be enough?.