Committee Advances 12 Bills to Address Opioid Abuse Epidemic
WASHINGTON, DC — Today, the Energy and Commerce Committee approved a dozen bills to combat the growing epidemic of opioid abuse across the nation. The 12 bills address a wide spectrum of issues related to the opioid abuse crisis by expanding access to substance abuse treatment services, increasing access to overdose reversal medication, improving provider education, and increasing public awareness of the problems of substance abuse.
“The Committee’s action today is a good first step in combating the widespread and devastating opioid abuse epidemic facing our nation,” said Ranking Member Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ). “There is, however, an urgent need to increase federal funding to help our communities combat this crisis, and I’m disappointed that Congressional Republicans refuse to support efforts to provide resources proportionate to the severity of this crisis.”
The following bills from Democratic members of the Committee were approved today and will soon be considered by the House:
H.R. 4981, Opioid Use Disorder Treatment Expansion and Modernization Act
H.R. 4981, introduced by Reps. Paul Tonko (D-NY) and Larry Bucshon (R-IN), would expand access to buprenorphine by lifting the current cap on the number of patients physicians can treat with buprenorphine from 100 to 250 and by allowing nurse practitioners and physician assistants to treat up to 100 patients with buprenorphine.
“Addiction is something that touches all of our lives at some point, whether personally or through family and friends, and it's time to rethink our approach to providing assistance to those struggling through some of the most challenging times imaginable. This legislation will expand opioid treatment capacity by 150 percent, while ensuring the highest quality care available. Those in the recovery community are truly heroes. Bearing witness to the success stories of those who battle substance abuse—as well as their closest friends and family that stand alongside them in their fight—drives me to push for policies that will expand the opportunity to recover to everyone,” said Rep. Paul D. Tonko (D-NY).
H.R. 3680, Co-Prescribing to Reduce Overdoses Act of 2015
H.R. 3680, introduced by Rep. John Sarbanes (D-MD), would create a demonstration grant program for entities to establish programs for prescribing of naloxone to patients at an elevated risk of overdose as well as to a close relative of such patient. The bill would provide grant funding to eligible entities to train health care providers and pharmacists on co-prescribing, to establish mechanisms for tracking patients and their health outcomes for program evaluation, to purchase naloxone, to offset patient cost-sharing associated with naloxone, to conduct community outreach to raise awareness of naloxone prescribing practices, and to establish protocols to connect patients who have experienced a drug overdose with appropriate treatment. The bill would authorize $5 million for fiscal years 2017 through 2021.
“The increase in opioid overdoses is a national crisis that cuts too many lives short and tears too many families apart,” said Rep. John Sarbanes (D-MD). “The bipartisan solutions we’ve advanced today, like the Co-Prescribing to Reduce Overdoses Act, will help expand access to lifesaving treatment for thousands of Americans.”
H.R. 3691, Improving Treatment for Pregnant and Postpartum Women Act
H.R. 3691, introduced by Rep. Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), would reauthorize the Pregnant and Postpartum Women (PPW) program, and creates a pilot program to allow for up to 25 percent of the grants to be made for outpatient treatment services. This will allow for greater flexibility for state substance abuse agencies to provide access to treatment, and address gaps in services furnished to pregnant women along the continuum of care. The bill would increase the authorization of this program to $16.9 million for each of fiscal years 2016 through 2020.
“By supporting efforts that focus on pregnant women and women with young children and providing innovative new ways to deliver treatment, we can break the cycle of addiction and help ensure these children start out on the right path,” said Rep. Ben Ray Luján (D-NM). “The package of drug bills we passed are a good first step, but only if Congress puts the necessary resources behind them to make care accessible to the millions of Americans who are struggling from drug abuse. I am disappointed that Republicans on the Committee blocked efforts to seriously invest funding, and I will continue my efforts to fight for robust resources to combat the opioid crisis that has gripped so many communities across New Mexico and the country.”
H.R. 4641, Inter-Agency Task Force to Review, Modify, and Update Best Practices for Pain Medication
H.R. 4641, introduced by Reps. Joe Kennedy, III (D-MA) and Susan Brooks (R-IN), would create an Inter-Agency Task Force, composed of representatives of federal agencies and departments as well as external stakeholders, to review, modify, and update best practices for pain management and prescribing pain medication.
“Every community and every family in our country has been impacted by the tragic consequences of the opioid crisis we are facing today. Along with my colleague Congresswoman Susan Brooks, I’m proud to lead this bill through our committee and create an interagency taskforce to support our fight to overcome this epidemic,” said Rep. Joe Kennedy, III (D-MA).
H.R. 3250, DXM Abuse Prevention Act of 2015
H.R. 3250, introduced by Reps. Doris Matsui (D-CA) and Bill Johnson (R-OH), would establish national requirements to prevent those under the age of 18 from purchasing Dextromethorphan (DXM). This legislation would require retailers to have verification systems in place to ensure those under the age 18 cannot purchase DXM, and would prevent the possession, receipt, and distribution of unfinished DXM by entities not registered or licensed with the federal or state government. Violations would result in escalating civil monetary penalties.
“The passage of the DXM Abuse Prevention Act as part of our Committee’s work on opioid and other substance abuse is an important step forward,” said Rep. Doris Matsui (D-CA). “The Act is a common sense solution to curb the public health consequences of DXM abuse by teens, and I look forward to working with stakeholders to refine this legislation as it advances to the House floor. Retailers and manufacturers have stepped up to curb the abuse of DXM by teens through education and awareness. Ten states and counting, including California, have passed legislation restricting sales of DXM to individuals age 18 and under. This bipartisan bill extends those good faith efforts. By restricting the sale of products with DXM to adults over age 18 nationwide, we ensure that cough medicine remains easily accessible to those that use it appropriately and inaccessible to those who seek to abuse it. Congress must not wait for tragic stories of children being hurt due to DXM abuse before we act.”
H.R. 1818, Veteran Emergency Medical Technician Support Act of 2015
H.R. 1818, introduced by Reps. Lois Capps (D-CA) and Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), would authorize a demonstration grant program for states to inform government and other stakeholders on ways to streamline certification and licensure requirements for returning veterans with military emergency medical technician (EMT) training, to become emergency medical technicians in their states.
“The opioid crisis is affecting communities across the country—including the Central Coast of California. When someone is in crisis, we need to make sure we have the best qualified health care providers available, including first responders. That is one of the reasons I have co-authored the Vets EMT Act, which would help military medics translate their knowledge and experience from the battlefield to civilian service,” said Rep. Lois Capps (D-CA).
A full list of the bills and amendments considered by the Committee can be found here.