New legislation to combat the opioid epidemic announced in Washington D.C.

This week, the federal government has taken major steps to address the opioid epidemic in the United States. Back in October, President Trump declared the opioid crisis a national public health emergency, and in November, the Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis released a series of recommendations to respond to the crisis. But, since then the White House has been under scrutiny for the lack of funding and concrete actions taken to combat the issue.

However, on Tuesday Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) introduced a new bill that would limit opioid prescriptions to three days for acute pain, require physicians to use their Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs, and would provide $1 billion in funding for a variety of treatment and support programs. The bill is an update to 2016’s Comprehensive Addiction & Recovery Act (CARA), and is referred to as “CARA 2.0”.

Specifically, the $1 billion authorized in CARA 2.0 would be used for:

  • $10 million to fund a National Education Campaign on the dangers of prescription opioid misuse, heroin, and lethal fentanyl.
  • $300 million to expand first responder training and access to naloxone.
  • $300 million to expand evidence-based medication-assisted treatment (MAT).
  • $20 million to expand Veterans Treatment Courts.
  • $100 million to expand treatment for pregnant and postpartum women, including facilities that allow children to reside with their mothers.
  • $60 million to help states develop an Infant Plan of Safe Care to assist states, hospitals and social services to report, track and assist newborns exposed to substances and their families.
  • $10 million for a National Youth Recovery Initiative to develop, support, and maintain youth recovery support services.
  • $200 million to build a national infrastructure for recovery support services to help individuals move successfully from treatment into long-term recovery.

New potential opioid legislation from the House was also discussed this week. On Thursday, during the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s opioid forum, Representative Greg Walden described three bills that he plans to review in the House Energy and Commerce committee in the coming month. These bills include using electronic databases to track opioid data and evaluating ways to safely dispose of opioids.

Walden held a legislative hearing on Wednesday to discuss potential solutions to the opioid epidemic and says he plans to hold two additional hearings in the coming months. His plan is to bring forth an opioid legislative package to the House floor by Memorial Day.

The U.S. Department of Justice also announced this week its intent to join in on litigation against opioid manufacturers and distributors. On Tuesday, the DOJ announced its plan to file a “Statement of Interest” regarding the hundreds of lawsuits against opioid manufacturers around the country. The statement of interest will support these lawsuits and will outline the costs of the opioid crisis on the federal government.

“Opioid abuse is driving the deadliest drug crisis in American history,” said AG Jeff Sessions following the announcement of the DOJ’s intent to file the statement of interest. “It has cost this nation hundreds of thousands of precious lives.  It has strained our public health and law enforcement resources and bankrupted countless families across this country. President Trump and this administration have made ending this unprecedented crisis a priority, and the Department of Justice is committed to using every lawful tool at our disposal to turn the tide.  We will seek to hold accountable those whose illegality has cost us billions of taxpayer dollars.”