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Sober Nation

Putting Recovery On The Map

10-30-18 | By

Trump Signs New Opioid Bill – But Is It Enough?

“Together we are going to end the scourge of drug addiction in America. We are going to end it or we are going to at least make an extremely big dent in this terrible, terrible problem,” Trump said at a White House event celebrating the signing of a new legislation to combat the opioid crisis.
Last Wednesday, President Trump sat down to sign a package of bills to confront the nations opioid epidemic – which also marked the one-year anniversary since the Trump administration declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency.
The legislation, dubbed the “Support for Patients and Communities Act,” is a big breakthrough for the ongoing crisis that will boost access to addiction treatment and many other interventions to combat the opioid epidemic, from tackling law enforcement efforts against illicit drugs to mitigating the overprescription of opioids.
Additionally, the bill signed includes provisions aimed at promoting research to find new drugs for pain management that will not be addictive. It also expands access to treatment for substance use disorders for Medicaid patients.

“The Single Largest Bill To Combat Drug Crisis”

Trump spoke for about 15 minutes during the signing ceremony, wavering between prepared remarks and ad-libbing in a sometimes-freewheeling presentation about large drug seizures and a nationwide crackdown on the over-prescription of opioids. Trump said his administration would now build upon this progress with “the single largest bill to combat drug crisis in the history of our country.”
After Trump concluded his remarks, more than a dozen executives from companies such as Amazon, Walgreens, Johnson & Johnson, Facebook, MyPillow and Ultimate Fighting Championship announced commitments to help fight opioid addiction.

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?.


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