The statistics about the opioid crisis are staggering. Opioid-related overdoses rose by about 28 percent between 2015 and 2016, and more than 63,000 Americans died of drug overdoses that year. According to a recent study, 20% of all deaths of 25–34-year-olds in 2016 were related to opioids.
Last week, the US House of Representatives passed seven bills focused on addressing the opioid crisis. Some were constructive; others, less so.
The Comprehensive Opioid Recovery Centers Act (H.R.5327) would require the Department of Health and Human Services to award grants to establish or operate comprehensive opioid recovery centers, with priority granted to areas with high per capita drug overdose mortality rates. The bipartisan bill passed 383 to 13, with the only opposing coming from a small group of right-wing GOP Freedom Caucus members.
The Safe Disposal of Unused Medication Act (H.R.5041) would allow hospice employee to handle controlled substances in the residence of a deceased hospice patient to assist with disposal of the controlled substances. Currently, hospice employees are not able to do, so if a patient dies, the medications would be left in that person’s home. The bill passed unanimously.
The Assisting States’ Implementation of Plans of Safe Care Act (H.R.5890) would provide states with greater funding for technical assistance and training around plans or safe care of infants affected by the opioid crisis, and increase reporting requirements. (Sen. Bob Casey, the lead sponsor of the Senate version of the bill, outlined the bill here.) It passed 406 to 3, with only 3 Republicans voting NO (Justin Amash of MI-03, Andy Biggs of AZ-05, and Tom Massie of KY-04).
The Improving the Federal Response to Families Impacted by Substance Use Disorder Act (H.R.5891) would establish an inter-agency task force (covering Health and Human Services, Education, Agriculture, and Labor) designed to develop a strategy on how federal agencies can implement a coordinated approach to the opioid epidemic, with a particular focus on programs that support infants, children, and their families. It passed 409–8, with the dissenting votes coming from the right-wing of the Republican caucus.