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Health Committee Passes Kaine Co-Sponsored, Bipartisan Addiction Recovery Legislation To Tackle Opioid Crisis

Legislation includes key provisions of Kaine bills to combat opioid epidemic

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Tim Kaine, a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, applauded Committee passage of legislation he co-sponsored called The Opioid Crisis Response Act of 2018. This bipartisan legislation takes a comprehensive look at how communities across the country are tackling the opioid crisis and includes forty different proposals to increase the ways resources can be spent to combat this epidemic. This legislation is the result of seven bipartisan hearings over several months, testimony from medical and recovery professionals, and feedback from the public. Additionally, provisions of two bills Kaine introduced were included in this comprehensive package, one to improve standards for addiction recovery homes, and another to promote job training programs that include addiction recovery support services. The Opioid Crisis Response Act also includes a third provision Kaine pushed for that offers schools the opportunity to apply for grants to directly offer trauma support services to students impacted by the opioid epidemic.

“We’re past due for strong legislation that can address the opioid epidemic that has devastated so many communities in Virginia and across the country,” Kaine said. “There is an answer to this crisis, and we need to really commit our resources to finding it. I am proud to have worked together with my colleagues on this bipartisan bill, which has come together after significant research, committee hearings, and feedback from the public. We must better understand the epidemic, and figure out a long-term funding pipeline, but I am hopeful the proposals in this bill will help us start to break the harmful cycle of addiction.”

Kaine’s proposals were drawn from two bipartisan bills he recently introduced: the Ensuring Access to Quality Recovery Living Act, to give states the resources and guidelines necessary to ensure recovery homes are able to effectively help residents sustain recovery from opioid and substance use disorders, and the Jobs Plus Recovery Act to incorporate job training into drug addiction recovery programs. 

The Opioid Crisis Response Act of 2018 (S. 2680) will improve the ability of the Departments of Education, Labor, and Health and Human Services, including the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Health Resources and Service Administration (HRSA), and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to address the crisis, including the ripple effects of the crisis on children, families, and communities, and improve data sharing between states. The legislation takes dollars allotted in March’s Omnibus that Kaine pushed for, and puts forward ways the federal government can be a better partner for states and communities on the front lines of the opioid crisis. 

The Opioid Crisis Response Act of 2018 will:

  • Reauthorize and improve grants to states and Indian Tribes for prevention, response, and treatment of the opioid crisis, authorized in 21st Century Cures, for three more years.
  • Spur development of and research on non-addictive painkillers, and other strategies to prevent, treat, and manage pain and substance use disorders through additional flexibility for the NIH.
  • Clarify FDA’s regulatory pathways for medical product manufacturers through guidance for both new non-addictive pain products and products that help treat addiction.
  • Encourage responsible prescribing behavior by clarifying FDA authority to require packaging and disposal options for certain drugs, such as opioids to allow a set treatment duration—for example “blister packs,” for patients who may only need a 3 or 7 day supply of opioids—and give patients safe disposal options.
  • Improve detection and seizure of illegal drugs, such as fentanyl, through stronger FDA and Customer Border Protection coordination.
  • Clarify FDA’s post-market authorities for drugs, such as opioids, which may have reduced efficacy over time, by modifying the definition of an adverse drug experience to include such situations.
  • Provide support for states to improve their Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs (PDMPs) and encourage data sharing between states so doctors and pharmacies can know if patients have a history of substance misuse.
  • Strengthen the health care workforce to increase access to mental health services in schools and community-based settings and to substance use disorder services in underserved areas.  
  • Authorize CDC’s work to combat the opioid crisis, including providing grants for states, localities, and tribes to collect data and implement key prevention strategies. 
  • Address the effects of the opioids crisis on infants, children, and families, including by helping states improve plans of safe care for infants born with neonatal abstinence syndrome and helping to address child and youth trauma. 
  • Authorize up to $60 million in grants so states can improve their care of infants, pregnant women, and new mothers through innovative treatment models that keep infants with their mothers and create surveillance programs to monitor the effects of the opioid crisis on these populations.
  • Authorize the Department of Labor to address the economic and workforce impacts for communities affected by the opioid crisis, through grants targeted at workforce shortages for the substance use and mental health treatment workforce, and to align job training and treatment services.
  • Improves treatment access to patients by requiring the Drug Enforcement Administration to issue regulations on how qualified providers can prescribe controlled substances in limited circumstances via telemedicine.  
  • Allow hospice programs to safely and properly dispose of unneeded controlled substances to help reduce the risk of diversion and misuse.
  • Authorizes a grant program so that schools can improve trauma support services (or trauma-informed care) and mental health care for children and youth while in educational settings.

Click here for the text of the legislation, and here for a detailed summary of the legislation.