U.S. House Passes Two Bills to Help Fight Opioid Abuse

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The U.S. House of Representatives has unanimously passed two bills aimed at fighting opioid abuse and its harmful effects. One bill would reauthorize federal funding to states for prescription drug monitoring programs, while the other would create uniform standards for diagnosing and treating newborns exposed to opioids.

The prescription drug monitoring bill, called the National All Schedules Prescription Electronic Reporting Reauthorization Act (NASPER), would provide state funding to establish, implement and improve prescription drug monitoring programs, the Boston Herald reports. The programs are designed to help screen and treat people who are addicted to prescription opioids or at risk of becoming addicted, the article notes.

NASPER originally became law in 2005. It is administered by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The reauthorization of NASPER would allow SAMHSA to provide grants to states for prescription drug monitoring programs, offering timely access to accurate prescription information.

The bill on diagnosing and treating newborns exposed to opioids, if passed by the Senate, would become the first federal measure to address the issue, according to the newspaper. The bill, called the Protecting Our Infants Act of 2015, is designed to reduce the problem of neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS). Babies born with NAS undergo withdrawal from the addictive drugs their mothers took during pregnancy, such as oxycodone, morphine or hydrocodone. Symptoms can include seizures, fever, excessive crying, tremors, vomiting and diarrhea, she said. Withdrawal can take several weeks to a month.

“Right now there is no standard for treatment with NAS,” bill author Katherine Clark, U.S. Representative from Massachusetts, told the Herald. “This problem leads to long stays in the NICU and hundreds of millions in Medicaid dollars.”

In a news release, Clark noted, “Our nation‘s opioid crisis cuts across all boundaries, destroys lives, and has a devastating impact on hundreds of newborns every day.”

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    Perry Kaplan

    October 6, 2015 at 11:20 AM

    Elizabeth is correct. These are not bills to treat addiction, They are aimed at punishing addicts because they do not provide for additional treatment slots. Even the newborn bill is more about punishing mothers using drugs and forcing doctors to use a one-size-fits-all treatment regimen to save money in the NICU’s. It’s time this country got over its need to punish addiction and started treating it like the public health issue that it is.

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    Elizabeth Perkins

    September 17, 2015 at 5:56 PM

    As a parent who has lost my son John,at the age of 30 on 5-5-11 to a heroin overdose, I applaud any focus we can get from our Federal Government on the pandemic problem of SUD (Substance Use Disorder). My state of Delaware has a prescription drug monitoring program, however it is not mandatory. GRASP/DE (Grief Recovery After a Substance Passing) and atTAcKaddiction, a grass roots group started by another family, Don & Jeanne Keister after losing their beautiful son Tyler, have partnered to advocate for expanded services. In 2013, we were able to get a Good Samaritan 911 bill passed, called “The Kristen L Jackson & John M Perkins, Jr. Law”. In 2014 we were also instrumental in expanding access to naloxone in our state. When the prescription drug monitoring program was instituted it drove many individuals who had become dependent on opiates prescribed by physicians to the streets and lower priced heroin. It is admirable to protect infants from addiction but what about all those adults who became addicted in the last decade or more. I support and advocate for the passing of “The Anthony Act”. Each day 119 people die in the US from overdose and in our state the ages range from 16 to 84. Almost 7,000 people are treated in our emergency rooms. Death from overdose has surpassed those from MVA or homicides each year and it is getting rapidly worse. ‘The Anthony Act” would amend the ACA to provide a minimum of 90 days inpatient drug or alcohol treatment up to a maximum of 180 per year at a facility that is certified to provide such care by the Secretary of Health in each state in which it is located. Research has determined that impatient treatment leads to long term sobriety and fewer relapses. Please call your state Senators and Representatives and tell them that more needs to be done to help curb the devastation that addiction causes the person as well as their families. Please google “The Anthony Act” and add your signature so this can become reality for so many desperate people.

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