U.S. Senate HELP Committee Introduces Bipartisan Opioid Crisis Response Bill

This week, Senators Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee) and Patty Murray (D-Washington), Chair and Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP), respectively, introduced the “Opioid Crisis Response Act of 2018.”  The measure, S. 2680, is the result of 40 various proposals from Republican and Democratic Senators, seven bipartisan hearings over several months, and input from stakeholders and the general public.

Generally speaking, the measure aims to address the significant nationwide opioid epidemic by improving the ability of various federal departments and agencies, including the Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), to respond to the crisis through additional funding, research and innovation, medical product and prescription drug safety, treatment and recovery services, and prevention activites. Notable provisions of the Opioid Crisis Response Act include:

  • Authorization for the CDC to issue expanded grants to states, localities, and tribes to establish or enhance evidence-based prevention activities
  • Authorization for the CDC to support states in collecting and reporting data related to adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) through public health surveys
  • Public and health care provider education and awareness outreach around opioid prescription risks and prescribing guidelines
  • Three-year reauthorization and expansion of grants initially authorized in the 21st Century Cures Act to states and Indian Tribes most significantly impacted by the crisis for prevention, response, and treatment activities
  • Grant programs and best practices for comprehensive opioid recovery centers and opioid addiction recovery housing facilities
  • Increased flexibility to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to research and develop non-addictive painkillers and other strategies to prevent, treat, and manage pain and substance use disorders
  • Clarification of FDA authority to encourage responsible prescribing behavior and require packaging and disposal options for specified prescription drugs
  • Authorization for the Department of Labor to address the economic and workforce impacts to communities affected by the opioid crisis, including mental health and health care workforce shortage grants

The expansive bill also includes strategies to address the rise in illicit synthetic opioid drugs, such as fentanyl, trauma-informed care necessary for conditions associated with addictions, and access to health services for mental health and substance use disorders.

S. 2680 is set to be marked-up in the Senate HELP Committee next week. The full bill text is available here and a summary overview is available here.