(Greg Lemon) – WASHINGTON – Congressman Joe Heck (NV-03), today, applauded House passage of a series of bills aimed at combating the nationwide opioid abuse and addiction epidemic.
With opioid abuse legislation passing both the House and the Senate, a Conference Committee comprising members from both chambers will convene to merge the bills into one package. That comprise package will then be passed by the House and Senate and sent to the President to be signed into law.
The opioid epidemic is destroying families and communities and we must take action,” Rep. Heck said. “As an emergency department physician, I have seen firsthand the devastating effects of opioid addiction and overdose. This series of bipartisan bills passed by the House will help prevent and treat opioid addiction, ensure our nation’s drug laws are strengthened to stop the flow of illicit drugs into the United States, and protect infants exposed to illegal drugs before birth. I applaud the House and the Senate for taking action to tackle this important issue and urge swift action in conferencing the bills so we can get this legislation to the President’s desk.
According to the American Society of Addiction Medication, drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in the US, with 47,055 lethal drug overdoses in 2014. Opioid addiction is driving this epidemic, with 18,893 overdose deaths related to prescription pain relievers, and 10,574 overdose deaths related to heroin in 2014.
BACKGROUND ON LEGISLATION:
The Comprehensive Opioid Abuse Reduction Act (H.R. 5046): This bipartisan bill combats the opioid epidemic by establishing a streamlined, comprehensive opioid abuse grant program that encompasses a variety of new and existing programs, such as vital training and resources for first responders and law enforcement, criminal investigations for the unlawful distribution of opioids, drug courts, and residential substance abuse treatment. The bill authorizes $103 million annually for the grant program and is fully offset for cut-go purposes.
The Opioid Program Evaluation (OPEN) Act (H.R. 5052): This bipartisan legislation increases the transparency and accountability of the comprehensive opioid abuse grant program. Specifically, it requires grantees to report on the use of grant funds and requires a publicly available analysis of whether or not the grants have achieved their intended purposes.
The Good Samaritan Assessment Act of 2016 (H.R. 5048): This bill requires the Government Accountability Office to study state and local Good Samaritan laws that protect caregivers, law enforcement personnel, and first responders who administer opioid overdose reversal drugs or devices from criminal liability, as well as those who contact emergency service providers in response to an overdose.
The Transnational Drug Trafficking Act of 2015 (S. 32): This bill combats drug trafficking and the importation of chemicals used to make illicit drugs in the United States. It improves law enforcement’s ability to pursue international drug manufacturers, brokers, and distributors who do not actually traffic their narcotics into the United States. The legislation also imposes penalties on trafficking in “listed chemicals,” which are used to produce illegal drugs like methamphetamine. Additionally, the bill amends current law to clarify that only those who knowingly transport a counterfeit drug can be prosecuted, to ensure that truck drivers, parcel services, or even patients with prescriptions will not be vulnerable to prosecution if they did not know the drug was counterfeit.
The Infant Plan of Safe Care Improvement Act (H.R. 4838): This bill will strengthen protections not only for infants exposed to illegal drugs before birth, but for all children in need of help and care. The legislation requires the Department of Health and Human Services to better ensure states are meeting current child welfare requirements, particularly protections for infants born with illegal substance exposure.
Lali’s Law (H.R. 4586): This bill authorizes grants to States for developing standing orders for naloxone prescriptions and educating health care professionals regarding the dispensing of opioid overdose reversal medication without person-specific prescriptions. The bill authorizes the appropriation of $5 million for the period of fiscal years 2017 through 2019. Ensuring standing orders for naloxone prescriptions and educating health care professionals on its use will help pharmacists and physicians save lives when time is of the essence.
H.R. 4641: This bill requires HHS, in coordination with VA, DoD, and DEA, to establish a task force to review and modify best practices for the treatment of pain. The task force would include representatives from relevant federal agencies, medical professionals, researchers, and experts in pain management and addiction to pain medication. This bill will help prescribers, patients, health care providers, law enforcement and treatment communities successfully combat the opioid crisis.
Congressman Joe Heck represents Nevada’s Third Congressional District in the House of Representatives. He serves on the House Armed Services Committee, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, and the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.