Two bills passed by Congress and heading to the Senate would be very helpful to opioid treatment programs (OTPs) and other treatment providers, and their patients.
The State Opioid Response (SOR) grant program, administered by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), is up for continuation thanks to a bill passed November 17th by the U.S. House of Representatives. Led by Rep. David Trone (D-Maryland), the State Opioid Response Grant Authorization Act of 2020 would authorize $9 billion over 6 years in flexible funding through grants for states and tribes to fight the opioid epidemic. On November 18, the bill was referred to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.
The SOR grants were first passed as part of the CURES Act in December, 2016. SOR then became STR.
“This bill helps provide States the steady, sustained, and consistent money they need for programs to: Prevent addiction through evidence-based programs; Increase access to outpatient and residential treatment, particularly through medication-assisted treatment,” said Representative Trone in defending the bill, which has bipartisan support. “Since 2000, there have been over 550,000 deaths from opioids, and the CDC estimates the cost to our country is $78.5 billion per year,” said Trone.
Unlike the COVID-19 pandemic, there will be no “vaccine” for the opioid epidemic, said Representative Trone. “We need consistent funding to help save these lives,” he said, noting that last year, almost 71,000 people died from an overdose – the highest number ever. “Across the country, over 40 States have reported an increase in overdose deaths since the start of this pandemic,” he continued. “These numbers are absolutely tragic and unacceptable. We must act.”
Trone’s nephew, Ian, died from an overdose.
For the text of the bill, go to https://www.congress.gov/116/crpt/hrpt568/CRPT-116hrpt568.pdf
Three days for withdrawal
Another bill, the EASY MAT for Opioid Addiction Act, would require the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to allow a provider to dispense up to three days of medication to relieve acute withdrawal symptoms for a patient with opioid use disorder. For the text of this bill, which would require a change in DEA regulations, go to https://www.congress.gov/116/bills/hr2281/BILLS-116hr2281eh.pdf.
The Republican leader of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Greg Walden (R-Oregon), released a statement strongly endorsing these bills, and others. “Not only is the opioid epidemic worsening during the COVID-19 pandemic; we’re also seeing an uptick in violent crimes. Today’s bills build off lessons learned from committee investigations into the root causes of the opioid crisis, support programs to help victims of violent trauma, and address disparities in health outcomes that have also been exacerbated by the pandemic.”
Walden continued: “As we’ve said before, now is not the time to let our foot off the gas in combating the opioid crisis. Not only is the opioid epidemic worsening during the COVID-19 pandemic; we’re also seeing an uptick in violent crimes. Today’s bills build off lessons learned from committee investigations into the root causes of the opioid crisis, support programs to help victims of violent trauma, and address disparities in health outcomes that have also been exacerbated by the pandemic.”
Other bills would increase competition in the prescription drug market, update drug labeling laws, and increase the CDC’s food allergy data collection.