Congress to add new opioid funding, consider additional policies

March 20, 2018

Congress continues to look for ways to address the opioid epidemic with the potential for new funding for states as well as a fresh look at policy solutions.

First, Congress will include additional funding in an omnibus appropriations bill that must be passed by March 23, yet another funding deadline to prevent a third government shutdown. This additional funding for combating the opioids epidemic was agreed to as part of the Bipartisan Budget Act.

Second, key congressional committees are considering a “CARA 2.0,” or additional policy proposals to supplement the 2016 Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act. On March 21 and 22, the health subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a hearing (which will be livestreamed) featuring stakeholders and key regulatory agencies (including the Food and Drug Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration). The committee also will consider over 20 bills addressing various aspects of this epidemic.

The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions committee held a hearing on states’ efforts to address the crisis and a hearing on how technology can aid such state and federal efforts. The Senate Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over Medicaid and Medicare, is likely to hold a similar hearing and focus on stakeholder feedback it received as part of a request for information.

Finally, the new Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar pledged to work with states and other stakeholders to address the opioid epidemic as a public health and medical issue; however, other remarks have suggested using more of a criminal justice approach to address the opioid epidemic. The Administration also has included using educational campaigns, adopting best practices in prescribing, and increasing access to treatment as part of its efforts.

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