Posted: 3:53 pm Wednesday, October 3rd, 2018
By Jamie Dupree
Even as Senators traded increasingly acidic charges over the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh, both parties joined together on Wednesday afternoon to easily approve a sweeping bill designed to address the opioid epidemic, sending the bill to President Donald Trump for his signature.
“This legislation is a turning point,” said Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH). “It is a glimmer of hope.”
In a Senate floor speech on Tuesday, Portman described going to a funeral in recent days for the son of a friend who had overdosed on opioids, as lawmakers in both parties struggle for answers to deal with the health crisis which has made a mark on every state.
“It won’t solve all the problems,” Portman said of the bill, “but this legislation will help.”
The 624 page bill combines dozens of ideas from lawmakers in both the House and Senate, focusing on treatment, stopping opioids from being sent through the mail, and finding new ways to crack down on the highly dangerous synthetic version known as fentanyl.
“This legislation represents the work of eight committees in the House and five committees in the Senate who have worked together to reach consensus about how to help address the opioid crisis which is affecting virtually every American community,” said Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN).
The House passed the bill last week on a vote of 393-8. The Senate vote was just as overwhelming, 98-1.
For lawmakers in both parties, millions in funds being doled out to the states – and now new treatment and research programs being authorized in this bill – are overdue moves by the feds to help state and local officials deal with a problem that hits every level of society.
“Recent polling shows half of West Virginia residents have a friend or family member who has been addicted to opioids,” said Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) about her home state.
🚨🚨 The Senate is about to vote on what @senatemajldr calls “landmark legislation” to deal with the opioid epidemic, which is the biggest public health epidemic in our country, and is ravaging nearly every community in Tennessee. #OpioidCrisisResponse https://t.co/Ipr543IANR
— Sen. Lamar Alexander (@SenAlexander) October 3, 2018
The details of the bill show the extensive effort to re-jigger federal programs to deal with opioids – by helping Medicaid patients, improving care for babies who have been harmed by their mother’s use of opioids; there are Medicare provisions to address seniors who are abusing the drugs, and new plans to crack down on opioids being mailed to the U.S. from overseas.
The sweeping nature of the bill is evident in the table of contents – which runs for 10 pages – detailing a variety of strategies on addiction, recovery, detection of illegal narcotics, setting up opioid recovery centers, and much more.
The plan also includes new federal penalties and fines against opioids manufacturers, who have been found at times to be sending huge numbers of pills to very small communities.