On May 24, the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee advanced five bipartisan bills aimed at limiting the supply and demand of prescription and illicit opioids. The five bills, which are relatively narrow in scope, promote measures such as drug take-back programs, manufacturer quotas for opioid production and the use of data to prevent drug diversion.
The bills passed by the committee are listed below:
- S. 2645, the Access to Increased Drug Disposal Act: This measure would award grants to states to encourage increased participation of authorized collectors in drug take-back programs.
- S. 2535, the Opioid Quota Reform Act: This measure would empower the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to consider additional factors, such as diversion risk and public health issues, in setting annual quotas for opioid production in the U.S.
- S. 2789, the Substance Abuse Prevention Act: This measure would reauthorize the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) and boost public education around opioid addiction, as outlined in the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (P.L. 114-198).
- S. 207, the Synthetic Abuse and Labeling of Toxic Substances Act: This measure would close a legal loophole inhibiting the prosecution of opioid analogue traffickers by clarifying whether a controlled substance analogue is intended for human consumption.
- S. 2838, the Using Data to Prevent Opioid Diversion Act: This measure would require the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to use anonymized data to track and prevent the diversion of prescription opioids.
Of these proposals, the bill that could most directly impact the local response to the epidemic is S. 2789, the Substance Abuse Prevention Act. The ONDCP supports initiatives such as the High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) and Drug-Free Communities (DFC) programs, which facilitate local and regional partnerships to address unique drug threats in different regions across the country.
The Judiciary Committee’s approval of these bills follows similar action by several other committees in the House and Senate on legislation that would enhance the nation’s response to the opioid crisis.
Throughout May, members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and House Ways and Means Committee also advanced dozens of narrowly-focused bills to address the opioid crisis via changes to Medicaid, patient privacy laws and data sharing, among other measures.
Additionally, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee last month passed S. 2680, the Opioid Crisis Response Act, a wide-ranging bill that would reauthorize funding outlined in the 21st Century Cures Act (P.L. 114-255) for a variety of addiction research, treatment, prevention and recovery activities. The Senate Judiciary Committee bills could later be included as part of S. 2680, in addition to multiple other opioid measures recently introduced by members of the Senate Finance Committee.
NACo has closely monitored the progress of opioid legislation moving through Congress. In view of the legislation’s potential impact for counties, NACo has prepared a working analysis of opioid bills under consideration in the House and Senate, as well as the projected impact for local governments addressing the epidemic.