A number of bills designed to tackle the nation’s opioid epidemic were recently signed into law by President Donald Trump. The package of legislation received bipartisan support in both the House and Senate, a rare feat in the current political climate that exists in the country.
Dubbed the Support for Families and Communities Act, the legislation was hailed as a breakthrough by lawmakers, who argue it will increase access to addiction treatment as well as numerous interventions that will lessen the ongoing opioid epidemic. Those added interventions include everything from the efforts of law enforcement against illegal drugs to taking on the over-prescription of opioids by members of the medical community.
Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) said in a statement that the legislation is a major victory for his state. Portman, who actively worked on and lobbied for the legislation, said it would also help stem synthetic drugs like fentanyl from being shipped into the country via the Postal Service.
However, Dr. Leana Wen, Baltimore’s former health commissioner and incoming president of Planned Parenthood, argued that a more comprehensive response is needed to curtail the opioid overdose crisis.
The legislation also does not provide funding for a large-scale expansion of addiction treatment options, which many experts believe is key to alleviating the crisis.
The bill does greenlight some small grant programs but does not provide funding for them. The actual money allocation will be worked out during the appropriations process.
Stanford University drug policy expert Keith Humphreys assisted both House and Senate staffers with the bill. According to Humphreys, Democrats and Republicans came together to agree on as many second-tier issues as possible in order to get the legislation through Congress and to the president’s desk for his signature.
The legislation does away with restrictions on opioid addiction medications, meaning more medical providers can prescribe them; expands an existing program so more first responders carry and use naloxone, a drug that reverses opioid overdoses; allows federal agencies to undertake pain and addiction research projects, and increases penalties for opioid over prescription.
More than 72,000 people in the United States died as a result of drug overdoses in 2017. At least two-thirds of those deaths were attributable to opioids, according to preliminary findings by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.