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U.S. Senate Stays Engaged in Federal Opioid Response

October 05, 2017

During the first in a series of hearings—The Federal Response to the Opioid Crisis—the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee heard from health care agency heads regarding actions to respond to the opioid crisis and implementation of recently enacted federal policy to address the epidemic.

Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) pointed to federal legislative accomplishments during the last year and a half to enact legislation and provide funding to support efforts to prevent addiction and enhance access to treatment. Specifically, comprehensive opioid legislation was enacted in July 2016. In December, through the 21st Century Cures Act, Congress provided $1 billion to support states in addressing the public health crisis and updated substance abuse programs.

In July 2016, Congress passed the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA). That legislation authorized a wide array of grants to carry out a comprehensive opioid abuse response through education, treatment, and recovery efforts. Key issues of interest to the hospital community in the legislation included pain management for chronic and acute pain, promoting the use of life-saving opioid reversal drugs, expanding access to addiction treatment, and permitting partial filling of certain prescriptions.

In April, Pennsylvania was awarded $26 million in federal funding to help combat the opioid abuse crisis. Pennsylvania has highlighted work in supporting a comprehensive array of prevention, treatment, and recovery services including:

  • Improving access to clinically-appropriate treatment and recovery services
  • Enhancing the commonwealth’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program
  • Improving quality of pain management prescribing practices
  • Expanding implementation of warm hand-off referral practices to increase the number of patients transferred directly from the emergency department to substance use treatment
  • Increasing community awareness of opioid use disorder issues and resources through public awareness activities

Testimony during the HELP Committee hearing was provided by leaders from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institutes of Health, and U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Senators spoke to a range of issues including:

  • Employing telehealth to improve access to treatment for addiction
  • Promoting the interoperability of prescription drug monitoring programs
  • Improving prescribing practices
  • Focusing on addiction from a chronic disease management perspective
  • Addressing the intersection of opioid use and the criminal justice system

The opioid crisis has hit Pennsylvania especially hard.  Last year, more than 4,600 people lost their lives to opioid-related overdoses, an increase of 37 percent from 2015. Andy Carter, HAP president and CEO, highlighted the Pennsylvania hospital community’s efforts to address this crisis in an opinion article on PennLive.

To learn more about HAP’s opioid crisis advocacy work, contact Dr. Michael Consuelos, HAP’s senior vice president, clinical integration.

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