House Passes 10 Bills Aimed at Combating Addiction to Opioids

The U.S. House on Wednesday passed 10 bills designed to fight opioid addiction. They are part of a package of 18 bills expected to be approved this week, USA Today reports.

One of the bills would authorize the creation of an interagency task force that would review, modify and update best practices for prescribing opioids. Members of the task force would include representatives of federal agencies, pain advocacy groups and mental and behavioral health providers.

Another bill would require states that receive federal grants for child protective services to have laws or programs to ensure babies born to mothers addicted to opioids will be cared for safely when they leave the hospital.

Legislators will consider more bills Thursday, the article notes.

Democrats offered an amendment to provide $600 million in emergency funding for the opioid bills. Republicans blocked the bill, saying funding will come when Congress passes its 2017 spending bills for federal agencies.

Earlier this week, the White House noted in a statement that four in five new heroin users started out by misusing prescription opioid pain medications. “These trends will not change by simply authorizing new grant programs, studies and reports. Congressional action is needed to fund the tools communities need to confront this epidemic and accelerate important policies like training health care providers on appropriate opioid prescribing, an essential component of this effort.”

The House bills will need to be reconciled with the Senate’s Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), which passed in March. The Senate measure authorizes funds for various drug treatment and prevention programs for a wide range of people, including those in jail.

CARA expands prescription drug take-back programs and establishes monitoring to prevent over-prescribing of opioid painkillers. It would expand the availability of medication-assisted treatment, including in criminal justice settings, and would support treatment as an alternative to incarceration. The measure also calls for training and equipping first responders on the use of the opioid overdose-reversal drug naloxone.

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