Congress Passes Sweeping Opioid Legislation

Opioid crisis
DARREN MCCOLLESTER/GETTY IMAGES

The Senate passed a sweeping opioid bill on Wednesday, sending the legislation to President Donald Trump’s desk for him to sign.

The Senate passed H.R. 6, the Support for Patients and Communities Act, with a vote tally of 98-1. Only Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) voted against the bill.

The passage of the opioid bill represents another victory for President Donald Trump, who campaigned on fixing the opioid crisis during the 2016 presidential election, as well being a rare bipartisan victory amidst the contentious confirmation process of Supreme Court Justice nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh.

The legislation would help combat the opioid crisis through increased medical research on opioid addiction, expanding access to treatment, giving more tools for law enforcement, and allocating more than $8.5 billion in funding. The opioid bill passed overwhelmingly through the House last Friday.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said on Wednesday that the legislation is “set to deliver major relief to the American communities that have been decimated by the scourge of substance abuse and addiction.”

McConnell also said the that the opioid package represents “a landmark package that will deliver critical resources to establish opioid-specific recovery centers and equip local medical practitioners.”

Sen. John Thune (R-SD), chairman of the Senate Republican conference, said on Wednesday, ” I look forward to seeing the president sign this bill into law so we can continue to help those who need it the most.”

Roughly 50,000 people died from opioid overdoses in 2017, which often begins with the over-prescription of painkillers. After becoming hooked on painkillers, many patients often turn to heroin or fentanyl.

Senate Health, Labor, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) said that the opioid crisis is “the most urgent public health epidemic facing our country today in virtually every community.”

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), who represents a state harmed by opioids, contended this bill represents only the beginning of combatting the opioid crisis.

“I and we will keep fighting,” said. Sen. Capito.

Sen. Patty Murray, the ranking member of the Senate HELP Committee, agreed with Sen. Capito’s sentiments: Congress needs to do more to help Americans hurt by the opioid crisis.

Murray said, “This is an important bill. It is an impactful step forward. It is not a final step by any means. The opioid crisis is ongoing, and our efforts to address it must be as well.”

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