Last week Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) released the Opioid Crisis Response Act of 2018. In their release they indicated that they introduced bipartisan legislation to address the urgent opioid crisis and said the Committee will markup (debate and vote on) the legislation on Tuesday, April 24. The joint statement said that the legislation will improve the ability of the Departments of Education, Labor, and Health and Human Services, including the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Health Resources and Service Administration (HRSA), and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to address the crisis, including the effects on children, families, and communities, and improve data sharing between states.

Alexander said that, “Our goal is to move urgently, effectively, and in a bipartisan way. This is a broad-based set of 40 different proposals to address the opioid crisis. The bill could help states and communities begin to bring an end to the opioid crisis by reducing the number of prescription opioids, stopping illegal drugs at the border, and accelerating research on non-addictive pain medicines. We will consider and seek to approve this bill next Tuesday, so we can get it to the Majority Leader and to the Senate for prompt consideration, along with other important proposals that may be coming from other committees.”

In response Murray said, “I’m grateful to members on both sides of the aisle for their strong work on the policies in our bill, which will offer families and communities much-needed tools and resources as they continue working to stop this epidemic and rebuild. The work isn’t over, and I look forward to more bipartisan progress in support of those we’ve heard from over the last several months, who are on the frontlines of the opioid crisis and are looking to Congress for support.”

According to the Committee press statement the legislation will:

• Reauthorize and improve grants to states and Indian Tribes for prevention, response, and treatment of the opioid crisis, authorized in 21st Century Cures, for three more year
• Spur development and research on of non-addictive painkillers, to prevent, treat, and manage pain and substance use through flexibility for the NIH.
• Clarify FDA’s regulatory pathways on guidance for new non-addictive pain products.
• Clarifying FDA authority to require packaging and disposal options for certain drugs, such as opioids to allow a set treatment duration for patients who may only need a 3 or 7-day supply of opioids—and give patients safe disposal options.
• Improve detection and seizure of illegal drugs, such as fentanyl, through stronger FDA and Customer Border Protection coordination.
• Clarify FDA’s post-market authorities for drugs, such as opioids, which may have reduced efficacy over time, by modifying the definition of an adverse drug experience.
• Provide support for states to improve their Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs (PDMPs) and encourage data sharing between states so doctors and pharmacies can know if patients have a history of substance misuse.
• Strengthen the health care workforce to increase access to mental health services in schools and community settings and to substance use services in underserved areas.
• Authorize CDC’s work to combat the opioid crisis, including providing grants for states, localities, and tribes to collect data and implement key prevention strategies.
• Address the effects of the opioids crisis on infants, children, and families, by helping states improve plans of safe care for infants born with neonatal abstinence syndrome and helping to address child and youth trauma.
• Authorize the Department of Labor to address the economic and workforce impacts for communities affected by grants targeted at workforce shortages for the substance use and mental health treatment workforce, and to align job training and treatment services.
• Improves treatment access to patients by requiring the Drug Enforcement Administration to issue regulations on how qualified providers can prescribe controlled substances in limited circumstances via telemedicine.
• Allow hospice programs to safely and properly dispose of unneeded controlled substances to help reduce the risk of diversion and misuse.

The text proposes to allocate funding for plans of safe care under CAPTA starting in 2019 which should mean the increased $60 million in FY 2018 CAPTA funding may be distributed in more flexible ways in addition to assisting states with plans of safe care.

Senator Todd Young (R-IN), a member of the HELP Committee, will be speaking to the CWLA Wednesday afternoon attendees. He should be fresh off the Committee debate and discussion.