A bill seeking $1 billion to fight the opioid epidemic with prevention, treatment and recovery passed the U.S. House of Representatives this week and the the U.S. Senate is expected to vote on it early next week.
The 21st Century Cures Act, which passed the House by a 392-26 vote, is designed to help give states the resources needed to fight the heroin and prescription opioid epidemic.
“Passage of this bill will give hope to millions of Americans that we will find effective treatments and cures to diseases more quickly and with less government red tape,” said Rep. Andy Barr, R-Ky. “We will transform the way that we treat mental health, and we will invest more in the fight against the growing epidemic of drug addiction which is devastating families and communities in Kentucky. I am proud to vote for this landmark legislation which will improve the lives of so many suffering from disease, mental illness, and addiction.”
The Senate is expected to take up the bill on Monday with a vote to follow early in the week.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said he hopes to see “overwhelming bipartisan support” in Senate.
“This medical innovation bill is one that can have a substantial impact for families across the country,” McConnell said on the Senate floor Thursday. “It supports medical research, including promoting regenerative medicine. It provides real funding to help combat the prescription opioid epidemic that’s swept our nation, particularly places like my home state of Kentucky. …Let’s work together to send it to the president’s desk as soon as possible.”
Earlier this week, Director of National Drug Control Policy Michael Botticelli spoke with media by teleconference and said the best thing that can be done is “to make sure we’re dedicating enough resources to expand access to treatment all across the country.”
If funded, states will apply for the funds, which will be administered as grants.
The U.S. Surgeon General recently released the first Report on Alcohol, Drugs and Health that addressed addiction and misuse, which reported 21 million people have a Substance Use Disorder. Only one in 10 get treatment, the report said.
Botticelli said the last eight years under the Obama Administration has seen a drastic shift in how the country approaches substance abuse. He said since Day 1, the administration has treated addiction as a disease and as a public health issue.
“It’s a disease that can be prevented and treated,” he shared during a “Making Health Care Better” forum Wednesday morning before the teleconference.
Under the Affordable Care Act, more than 60 million people are receiving treatment for mental health and substance abuse disorders — a key in fighting the epidemic that took 78 lives each day on average in 2014.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s first-ever recommendations for general practitioners on prescribing opioids has also been beneficial to curbing overprescribing, Bottecelli said. From 1999 to 2014, more than 165,000 people have died in the U.S. from overdoses related to prescription opioids, according to the CDC.
Dr. Carolyn Clancy, Deputy Under Secretary for Health for Organizational Excellence at the Veteran’s Health Administration, said physicians must continue giving patients and families information about the medications they are prescribed. They must be made aware of the risks and benefits of opioids before starting treatment.
Dr. Carlos Blanco, Director of Services and Prevention Research at National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), said many positive steps have been made in recent years, such as the increased availability of naloxone, as well as expanding access to Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT).
He and several other physicians noted during the discussion the importance of improving chronic pain care, including non-pharmacological alternatives.
Bottecelli added that law enforcement partners have worked on targeting distributers and now agree arresting those with addiction is not an effective way to deal with the problem, another important part of addressing the epidemic.
Wendy Holdren and Sarah Plummer contributed to this story.FacebookTwitterGoogle +