In 2014, drug overdoses were the leading cause of accidental death in the U.S. – exceeding deaths from automobile accidents – with over 47,000 lethal drug overdoses occurring around the country. Now, Congress and local communities alike are taking steps to address and stem the spread of heroin and pain prescription drug abuse.
On April 20, the House Judiciary Committee approved two bills related to foreign drug trafficking. The first bill, H.R. 3380, makes it easier for federal officials to prosecute foreign traffickers illegally importing drugs into the United States by eliminating the requirement to prove traffickers knew the drugs were intended for the U.S. The second bill, H.R. 4985, protects the disclosure of classified information used by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) to sanction foreign drug traffickers.
The Judiciary Committee will continue its work next week with additional bills related to prevention and treatment, including H.R. 953 – legislation that mirrors the Senate’s Comprehensive Addition and Recovery Act (CARA), S. 524, which passed the Senate with NACo’s support earlier this year.
Meanwhile, this week the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Health also marked up and approved twelve bills related to opioid abuse treatment, prevention and recovery. The legislation will now go to the full committee, which hopes to complete the process this month so the bills can be ready for floor action in May. The bills marked up include:
- Examining Opioid Treatment Infrastructure Act of 2016;
- Opioid Use Disorder Treatment Expansion and Modernization Act;
- H.R. 1818: The Veteran Emergency Medical Technician Support Act of 2015;
- H.R. 3250: The DXM Abuse Prevention Act of 2015;
- H.R. 3680: The Co-Prescribing to Reduce Overdoses Act of 2015 (If appropriated, this provision would allow county health departments to receive grants for co-prescribing opioid overdose reversal drugs);
- H.R. 3691: The Improving Treatment for Pregnant and Postpartum Women Act of 2015;
- H.R. 4586: Lali’s Law;
- H.R. 4599: The Reducing Unused Medications Act of 2016;
- H.R. 4641, which establishes an inter-agency task force to review, modify, and update best practices for pain management and prescribing pain medication;
- H.R. 4969: The John Thomas Decker Act;
- H.R. 4976: The Opioid Review Modernization Act; and
- H.R. 4978: The Nurturing and Supporting Healthy Babies Act.
All told, the House’s Bipartisan Task Force to Combat the Heroin Epidemic plans to formally endorse 15 bills addressing opioid abuse, which could authorize up to $85 million in new funding. Task Force Co-Chair Frank Guinta (R-N.H.) said this week that House leadership sees this as “an opportunity to not just pass [the Senate version], but strengthen it.” Rep. Guinta and other panel members hope for many of the bills to pass the House in May, ultimately leading to the two chambers going to conference to reconcile their legislation on the issue.
To help combat the heroin and prescription drug epidemic, the National Association of Counties (NACo), along with the National League of Cities (NLC), convened the National City-County Task Force on the Opioid Epidemic in March, 2016 to explore how cities and counties are working to address the opioid epidemic and to share proven solutions with local leaders across the country. The Task Force also aims to increase awareness of the opioid epidemic and provide policy recommendations to local, state and federal governments.
On April 7, 2016, the inaugural meeting of the Task Force was held at the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington, D.C. Task Force members were joined by national experts to assess the scope of the prescription drug and heroin epidemic and to begin discussing how cities and counties can help to stem the tide of the epidemic at the local level. More about that discussion can be found here.
The Task Force will meet again in the summer of 2016 to continue these discussions and will publish a report featuring policy recommendations and best practices in the fall. For up-to-date information related to the Task Force, please visit www.naco.org/OpioidTaskForce or http://www.nlc.org/build-skills-and-networks/resources/addressing-the-opioid-epidemic.