The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) reports that more than 130 people per day die of opioid-related drug overdoses. A year ago, President Donald Trump signed legislation to combat the crisis. Now legislators from both parties would like to help individuals and communities struggling with opioid issues.
Deaths resulting from opioid overdoses began to fall last year for the first time since 1990. While 2018’s death toll of 47,590 in 2018 was considered to be encouraging, it may be too soon to know whether it was an unusual statistic or a turnaround in trends, according to the Washington Examiner.
As related on the website of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “The misuse of and addiction to opioids—including prescription pain relievers, heroin, and synthetic opioids such as fentanyl—is a serious national crisis that affects public health as well as social and economic welfare.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that the total ‘economic burden’ of prescription opioid misuse alone in the United States is $78.5 billion a year, including the costs of healthcare, lost productivity, addiction treatment, and criminal justice involvement.”
Last year’s Substance Use Disorder Prevention That Promotes Opioid Recovery and Treatment for Patients and Communities (SUPPORT) Act involves prevention, treatment, recovery and enforcement. It funds research on nonaddictive pain medication, requires the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to establish rules enabling doctors to prescribe medication to treat addiction via telemedicine to expand help to remote areas, funds early intervention for children previously exposed to trauma and considered at risk for opioid use disorder and adds $8 billion in funding for the crisis. While some experts think this legislation has moved things in the right direction, others say it is only a start.
Now several Democratic Presidential candidates, including Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar and Beto O’Rourke are asking Congress to put $100 billion over 10 years to fight the opioid crisis. Another candidate, Independent Bernie Sanders, has introduced legislation to make drug company executives face jail time, and other candidates have measures that would fine drug companies enough to go out of business if they are contributing to the crisis.
Republican Greg Walden has a dozen bills he wants to get passed, including measures to have additional oversight on where prescription drugs are sold, allowing certain treatment facilities to use telemedicine to help people to recover from opioid addiction and giving doctors access to more medical records to enable them to determine whether a patient is on an opioid or has a history of addiction.
While much of the Congressional healthcare agenda has concentrated on drug pricing and surprise medical bills this year, legislators understand that the US is battling an unprecedented opioid epidemic. They want to assure that people can benefit from prevention programs, access to treatment for opioid addiction and overdose reversal drugs. Funding has been proposed for primary care facilities that can serve as a gateway to better care and specialized facilities that can provide that care.