House Passes Bipartisan Opioid Bill

Close-up of an opened prescription bottle, labelled as containing the opioid hydrocodone, as a number of its pills lie on a white surface, March 14, 2017. (Photo by Tom Kelley/Getty Images)
Tom Kelley/Getty Images

The House passed a major opioid bill on Friday that will serve as the vehicle to send to the Senate to combat the crisis.

The House overwhelmingly passed H.R. 6, the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act, with a 396-14 vote, featuring strong support from both Republicans and Democrats. The bill will serve as the bipartisan vehicle to send the majority of House-passed opioid bills to the Senate next week.

House Energy and Commerce chairman Greg Walden (R-OR) and House Ways and Means chairman Kevin Brady (R-TX) sponsored the legislation.

Walden said in a joint statement with Reps. Brady, Frank Pallone (D-NJ), and Richard Neal (D-MA) last week, “H.R. 6 will be an important step forward in our efforts to stem the tide of addiction by improving prevention and public health efforts, enhancing treatment and recovery programs, and providing communities more tools in our fight.”

The House has already passed more than 25 opioid-related bills, which will be included in H.R. 6 as it moves to the Senate to be considered.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) said on the House floor Friday:

That is because this legislation has to do with the deadliest drug crisis in our nation’s history.

The grim truth is this: More Americans have died from drug overdoses since the turn of the century than died in the Civil War.

The SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act would expand access to treatment and recovery services for opioid addicts, encourage non-addictive opioid alternatives to treat pain, and give law enforcement more tools to prevent fentanyl from coming into the country.

House Ways and Means chairman Kevin Brady (R-TX) also spoke on the House floor Friday, stating:

The opioid crisis has impacted every community in America and robbed countless individuals of their full potential.

A recent poll found that 42 percent of Americans in their twenties and thirties personally know someone who has dealt with opioid addiction. This is a staggering number – and it shows that this crisis touches a huge part of our society.

One important policy within H.R. 6, which has been championed by Congressman Peter Roskam, will prevent abuse by making sure folks are not able to game the system by visiting multiple doctors’ offices in order to receive an opioid.

More than 161 patient advocacy groups wrote to House Speaker Paul Ryan and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) Friday, urging the House to quickly pass the opioid legislation.

The patient groups wrote:

We applaud the champions of H.R. 6 for treating addiction like the disease that it is, and for their bold leadership, in their respective committees and on the House floor, to advance so many innovative, bipartisan proposals that will have an immediate, and positive impact to address addiction.

The groups added, “We respectfully urge the full House to immediately consider and pass H.R. 6, which represents a significant step toward building the comprehensive response needed in our nation so that fewer lives are lost to substance use disorder.”

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