The current opioid crisis in the U.S. has had a devastating impact. While there are more than 1.5 billion people around the world who suffer from chronic pain and need medical help, there have been thousands of deaths each year from overdoses. And the Senate has now passed legislation that will hopefully help fight the opioid epidemic facing our nation.
The new legislation consists of provisions intended to promote research for finding new drugs that can help manage pain but won’t be addictive. Furthermore, the legislation also expands treatment access for substance use disorders for patients who have Medicaid. Under the new legislation, there would be drug management for at-risk beneficiaries, which would help avoid over-prescribing opioids, provide medical assistance for those are incarcerated and require substance abuse treatment, and limit e-prescriptions of controlled substances.
The bill follows another bill focusing on opioids that was passed last month. That bill allows for the creation of grant programs and funding to help give doctors the waivers they need for drugs that can help treat opioid addiction, provides aid to communities that are in need of treatment centers, and make the use of naloxone, which is used to reverse opioid overdoses, more readily available to first responders.
Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), who has been working to combat the nation’s opioid problem for four years now, is credited with a major part of the new bill. The new legislation will require packages shipped from overseas to be screened by the U.S. Postal Service for fentanyl.
On the passing of the legislation, Portman said in a floor speech, “I will say getting that passed, to me, is just common sense. I think it’s overdue. I’m disappointed it took us this long. How many people had to die before Congress stood up and did the right thing with regard to telling our own post office you have to provide better screening?”
While there are more than 300 bills currently waiting for Senate action, the passage of this bills comes a year after the opioid crisis was declared a national emergency by President Trump. And now that it has been passed by the Senate, it’s on its way to be signed by Trump.
Already, Congress has allocated $8.5 billion towards opioid-related programs for this year alone. But many experts say that while the new legislation is making great strides towards battling the opioid crisis, it does not show the level of long-term commitment and funding needed to fight a crisis this massive. However, public health advocates say that the bill’s attention towards treatment is a big step and the increased access to recovery centers and medical assistance is a good place to start.