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Federal Opioid Policy Package Clears Congress for Enactment into Law

October 04, 2018

After months of legislative attention and policy negotiation, Congress passed new legislation to address the opioid epidemic. The package includes wide-ranging policies intended to improve access to treatment, bolster the behavioral and mental health workforce, and take tangible actions to prevent opioid misuse.

The Substance Use-Disorder Prevention that Promotes Opioid Recovery and Treatment (SUPPORT) for Patients and Communities Act (H.R. 6) advances priorities including:

  • Expanding the use of telehealth services for the treatment of opioid use disorder and other substance use disorders
  • Promoting appropriate prescribing
  • Providing for safety-enhancing packaging and disposal
  • Improving care for infants with neonatal abstinence syndrome and their mothers
  • Expanding access to non-opioid treatment options
  • Increasing substance use provider capacity
  • Allowing states to receive federal Medicaid matching funds for up to 30 days per year for services provided to adults aged 21–64 for substance use disorders in an Institution for Mental Disease

The enactment of this package will mark the culmination of months of legislative focus. During June, the House passed H.R. 6 by a vote of 396–14. On September 17, the Senate passed the Opioid Crisis Response Act of 2018 by a vote of 99–1. The House approved the final opioid agreement last week by a vote of 393–8, and the Senate passed the final package 98–1.

Last Congress, federal lawmakers passed the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) which authorized a wide array of grants to carry out a comprehensive opioid abuse response through education, treatment, and recovery efforts. Since the enactment of CARA, Congress has authorized and appropriated significant federal resources—largely in the form of grants to states—to support opioid abuse prevention and treatment activities.

This year alone, Congress has appropriated $8.5 billion toward the opioid crisis. The fiscal year 2018 Omnibus Appropriations bill that Congress passed during March included $4.7 billion. Additionally, last week, the fiscal year 2019 Health and Human Services Appropriations bill provided $3.8 billion to fight the epidemic.

That $3.8 billion allocation amounts to an increase of $206 million during fiscal year 2018 and includes $1.5 billion for State Opioid Response grants, of which 15 percent is set aside for the most impacted states, including Pennsylvania.

Many of the policy provisions included in the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act will take steps to reverse the effects of the opioid crisis and new funding will help support stakeholders’ ongoing work. Moving forward, it will be crucial for federal lawmakers to advance positive policy solutions that provide sustained resources to address addiction and build capacity for treatment.

For information about HAP’s clinical work around the opioid crisis, contact Michael Consuelos, MD, HAP’s senior vice president, clinical integration. For information about federal efforts, contact Laura Stevens Kent, HAP’s vice president, federal advocacy.

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