Proving once again that lawmakers are capable of bipartisan agreement, the Senate voted 94-5 on Wednesday to send President Obama a $6.3 billion plan that authorizes new government work on medical innovation, extra efforts on mental health, and helps states battle opiod drug addiction problems across the U.S.
“The Senate just passed the most important bill of the year,” said Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN).
“This will make a real difference for patients and families across the country, now and years into the future,” said Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA).
The plan would direct an extra $4.8 billion in medical research money to the National Institutes of Health, and also fund new work by the Food and Drug Administration.
Other provisions include resources to fight opiod addition, and new efforts by the feds on mental health matters.
“This historic vote is one of the rare moments in Congress where members can say with confidence their vote to pass these reforms will indeed save lives,” said Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA), who was able to include new provisions on mental health in the bill.
Murphy and others had fought for years to get the Congress to do more about coordinating federal and state work on mental health.
Among the many highlights in this new medical plan:
+ The main goal of the bill is fostering new health innovation and research at the National Institutes of Health and the Food and Drug Administration.
+ NIH would get $4.8 billion extra over 10 years new efforts at cancer research, brain research, precision medicine and more.
+ The FDA would get $500 million over 10 years to expedite approval of new drugs and medical devices, while not sacrificing safety.
+ The bill also includes $1 billion in new grants over two years to help states deal with opioid abuse.
+ Also added to the plan were new legislative reforms for the nation’s health care system, including $14 million in grants to help change how services are provided by states
+ $12.5 million in grants would be made available to help states better maintain a database of available treatment facilities for those facing mental health issues
+ Another $10 million would be used to help attract medical residents and others to practice psychiatry and follow career paths in other mental health professions.
President Obama has already signaled his support, as Congress will chalk up a major bipartisan achievement before drawing the 114th Congress to a close.