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Senate Poised to Pass Comprehensive Opioid Legislation Next Week


Posted on: 9/13/2018

Since 2015, Congress has been intensely focused on addressing the nation’s opioid addiction epidemic. To date, it’s efforts have already produced two landmark pieces of legislation, the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), passed by Congress and signed into law by President Obama in July 2016, and the 21st Century Cures Act (Cures Act) which was signed into law in December 2016. CARA was the first comprehensive addiction treatment legislation to be signed into law in the last 40 years, while the Cures Act authorized the largest single tranche of federal funds, $1 billion, for the nationwide expansion of addiction treatment services.

Now, just 8 weeks away from President Trump’s first mid-term elections, the U.S. Senate is poised to once again pass comprehensive addiction legislation. On Monday, the Senate is expected to pass the Opioid Crisis Response Act of 2018—a bipartisan package of over 70 proposals recommended by five different committees. According to Senate health committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN), “This legislation represents the work of over 70 senators, five committees, and countless staff who have worked together to help put an end to the opioid epidemic ravaging virtually every American community.”

The bill aims to reduce the use and supply of opiate-derived pain-killers, encourage recovery by expanding access to treatment, support caregivers and families, and drive innovation toward long-term solutions of substance use disorders and addictions. Specifically, the bill contains a number of provisions that ACMA believes to be important and worthy of final Congressional approval in the near future, including provisions that would allow patients to sign a waiver consenting to inclusion of substance use disorder information into their EMR, expand telehealth services under Medicare and Medicaid, and authorize a new grant program through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration for entities to establish or operate comprehensive opioid recovery centers which utilize the ECHO model to support care coordination and services delivery.

ACMA recognizes Senate consideration of this package of bills as a major step forward in addressing the nation’s opioid crisis. However, this is not the final step in the process. The Senate and House of Representatives will need to agree on a final package to be sent to the president’s desk. ACMA is supportive of quick and decisive congressional action.

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