Questions of funding plague congressional addiction bills
Last May, the House of Representatives passed a series of bills as part of the government’s efforts to stem this country’s opioid epidemic. The House legislation will be folded into the Comprehensive Addiction Recovery Act (CARA) the Senate passed last March. Unfortunately, the House bills do not have funding. According to one source, the outlook is bleak the bills will ever receive funding because they are up against other federal bills that also need funding, and there’s just only so much money to go around.
This article explores the trials and tribulations of funding and implementing effective drug prevention legislation.
Opioid Review Modernization Act and others
One of the bills in the House package provides $103 million in grants over five years for drug prevention services. The Opioid Review Modernization Act (another part of the House package) would establish Food and Drug Administration (FDA) prescribing guidelines for long-acting opioid medications. It would also establish an FDA advisory committee, which would make recommendations to the FDA commissioner regarding the approval of any opioid drug that does not have abuse-deterrent properties.
Partisan division on a bipartisan issue
The House package – H.R. 5046 – was a bipartisan effort. There does not seem to be as much shared industry for funding the bills, which the White House estimates will require $1 billion. Last May, the Senate rejected an amendment that would have added $600 million in emergency funds to CARA. Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen proposed the amendment. Following the vote, she said, “I’m disappointed – not surprised but disappointed.” Only five Republican senators of the 54 total voted in favor.
In a May 2016 editorial, Republican Senator Rob Portman – co-author of CARA with Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse – wrote, “The status quo just isn’t working. According to one poll, nearly half of the public knows someone who has been addicted to prescription painkillers, and two-thirds want federal government to do more about this problem. That should never happen. I agree with them.” Portman was one of the five Republicans to cross the aisle and vote for Shaheen’s amendment.
Portman’s willingness to forego party polemics constitutes an exception to an otherwise intractable norm. Shortly after the House passed its legislative package, the White House branded it as an election-year stunt. Perhaps tame compared to the rhetoric bandied about in this election year, but symbolic of how Congress undermines its good intentions by adhering to politics over people.
Congress’ record on drug prevention legislation
CARA notwithstanding, the 114th Congress (2015 to 2016) considered 21 bills and amendments directly related to drug abuse during its session. Only one, House Amendment 990 to H.R.4641, showed signs of positive traction. The amendment’s purpose: “To provide for the establishment of an inter-agency task force to review, modify, and update best practices for pain management and prescribing pain medication, and for other purposes.” On May 11, 2016, the House agreed to the amendment by voice vote.
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About the author:
Darren Fraser is a content writer for Sovereign Health Group. He worked two and half years as reporter and researcher for The Yomiuri Shimbun until they realized he did not read, speak or write Japanese and fired him. Undeterred, he channels his love of research into unearthing stories that provide hope to those dealing with addiction and mental illness. Darren loves the Montreal Canadiens hockey club and horror films and would prefer to enjoy these from the comforts of his family’s farm in Quebec. For more information about this media, contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.