Senate Passes Bipartisan Legislation Package To Combat Opioid Epidemic

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Evie Fordham Politics and Health Care Reporter
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The Senate passed a bipartisan legislation package that would take a multi-pronged approach to combating the opioid epidemic Monday.

The package will need to be reconciled with similar legislation passed by the House of Representatives in June, and legislation sponsor Tennessee Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander said he hopes the president will sign the measure into law in early October, reported NBC.

“This bill represents Congress at its best,” Utah Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch said before the Senate vote Monday. “I look forward to working with my colleagues in the House.”

The legislation has multiple provisions, including the Synthetics Trafficking and Overdose Prevention (STOP) Act that would penalize the U.S. Postal Service for failing to properly collect information about foreign packages coming into the U.S. STOP is designed to stop the influx of fentanyl-laced drugs coming in the mail from countries like China.

The package also contains provisions like:

  • Giving the U.S. Food and Drug Administration permission to restrict opioid doses to three to seven days
  • Allocating more funding to help babies born with opioid addictions and their mothers
  • Allocating funding for comprehensive opioid recovery centers
  • Releasing money from the 21st Century CURES Act, which gives states and territories funding for purposes including fighting the opioid crisis

“The opioid legislation is helpful in some areas,” health care entrepreneur Dave Chase, author of “The Opioid Crisis Wake-up Call,”said in a statement to The Daily Caller News Foundation via email Monday. “Reauthorizing funding for the CURES Act and expanding programs that provide naloxone to first responders will literally save lives. But we won’t get at the roots causes of the opioid crisis until we finally address how this country pays for and delivers health care services.”

The federal government is working with an opioid crisis budget of $8.7 billion until the end of fiscal year 2019 thanks to appropriations bills passed in March and August, according to a Sept. 12 press release from Alexander’s office.

“According to Senator Roy Blunt, the chairman of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee that approves this bill each year, federal funding to help combat the opioid epidemic has increased nearly 1,300 percent over the past four years,” Alexander stated in the press release. (RELATED: StudySeniors Should Think Twice Before Reaching For The Aspirin Bottle)

Five Senate committees — including the senate health committee that Alexander chairs, banking and judiciary — contributed to the legislation package. One difference between the Senate’s and House’s measures is a provision that allows Medicare to pay for more expensive non-opioid treatments for post-surgical patients, reported Politico.

Approximately 72,000 Americans died of drug overdoses — the highest number ever, and not limited to opioid overdoses — in 2017, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention preliminary estimates.

The record number, which represents an increase of almost 7 percent from 2016, can be traced back to the growing amount of drugs that are laced with dangerous substances like the synthetic opioid fentanyl, reported The New York Times’ blog The Upshot.

Follow Evie on Twitter @eviefordham.

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