On Wednesday, May 9, Dr. Phil McGraw was the featured speaker at a briefing co-hosted by several congressional caucuses including the Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth, Senate Caucus on Foster Youth, Congressional Social Work Caucus, Congressional Mental Health Caucus, the Congressional Crime Prevention and Youth Development Caucus, the Bipartisan Taskforce to Combat the Heroin Epidemic.
The focus of the briefing was the opioid crisis. Dr. Phil reasserted the growing number of statistics in increased use of opioids, the increased number of deaths related to overdoses. He also emphasized the importance of treatment and recognizing that addiction is a disease and not a weakness. In his remarks he discussed the effectiveness of treatment and the need to address co-occurring behavioral health issues.
Congressperson Karen Bass (D-CA) opened the briefing saying that, “One of the worst things we can do to our child welfare system is overload it and one of the worst things we can do to an addicted parent is rip their kids away from them. The opioid crisis has increased the amount of both instances.” She was accompanied by several other members of the House including Foster Youth Caucus Co-Chair Tom Marino (R-PA), Congresswoman Brenda Lawrence (D-MI), Congresswoman Gwen Moore (D-WS) and Congressman Phil Roe (R-TN) among others.
During McGraw’s remarks and the question and answer set, he highlighted some recent legislation including the Family First Act and the provisions that expand access to family-based treatment and kinship navigator programs. He also discussed Neo-Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) and called for full funding under CAPTA at $120 million. Robin McGraw also spoke to the House members and talked about her experiences working on substance abuse treatment and the families that are affected. Her remarks were reinforced by Sarah Avery, a mother from Kentucky, who has been dealing with substance use issues and the challenges for both her and her family.
On Tuesday, the House Energy and Commerce Committee moved more than two dozen bills that were bipartisan and included several actions within the Committee’s jurisdiction. Included were bills HR5327, extending opioid recovery centers that would include medication assisted treatment, HR5176 that creates a grant program to coordinate long term substance abuse treatment for patients who have experienced an overdose, H. R. 4275, that provides education materials for health care providers, bills that deal with Medicare, HR 5685, HR 5686, a Workforce Loan Repayment, HR 5102, and several others.
The Committee is expected to continue that this week. The Chairman of the Committee, Congressman Greg Walden (R-OR) said that he hoped the House would move a large package of opioid legislation by the Memorial Day break, although some are skeptical of that timetable. In the meantime, the Senate is expected to act on their package after or about the time the House brings their legislation to the floor.