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House passes 58 opioid bills, including two from Hal Rogers; McConnell aide says package a priority

The U.S. House passed a massive opioids package last week that includes two measures sponsored by Rep. Hal Rogers, Republican from Eastern Kentucky’s 5th Congressional District.

“The Treating Barriers to Prosperity Act will expand the Appalachian Regional Commission’s efforts to combat the deadly drug abuse epidemic in the Appalachian region, where the opioid-related overdose rate is 65 percent higher than the rest of the nation,” Rogers said in a press release, “The Substance Use Disorder Workforce Loan Repayment Act offers student loan repayment of up to $250,000 for students who agree to work as a substance use disorder treatment professional in areas most in need of their services. Both bills were previously approved by the House.”

Rep. Hal Rogers

The package combines 58 bills the House passed in the last two weeks, giving more lawmakers the ability to say in an election year that they passed bills. Rogers called it “one of the most significant bipartisan measures to combat a single drug crisis in the nation’s history.”

Titled the Substance Use-Disorder Prevention that Promotes Opioid Recovery and Treatment (SUPPORT) for Patients and Communities Act, it includes “expanding access to medication-assisted treatment, cracking down on over-prescribers of opioids, increasing telehealth services for treatment of substance use disorder, and encouraging non-opioid pain management techniques,” Inside Health Policy reports.

But Lev Facher of The Boston Globe’s medical publication Stat reports, “Outside experts, while applauding Congress for its focus on the issue, say they believe the current package fails to match the scope of the current crisis.” The first example: “It does not expand syringe exchange services, which have been shown to reduce infectious-disease transmission among injection drug users.”

CNN reports, “A key provision in the bill would allow Medicaid to pay for treatment in certain inpatient facilities that treat mental illness — rolling back a federal prohibition in order to target opioid addiction — for up to 30 days. The provision was initially tailored only for opioid treatment, drawing criticism from Democrats for focusing on too small a population.” A deal between Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Greg Walden and Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Illinois, “broadened the provision to expand its reach to crack cocaine as well.”

Now the package heads to the Senate, “where multiple committees are working on their own package of bills to address the crisis,” CNN reports. “Aides in both chambers say they expect to reconcile the bills and get something to the President’s desk to be signed into law before the end of the year. A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the bipartisan bills reported out of the four committees are ‘priorities for the majority leader’.”

Stat reports, “Lobbyists and Democratic congressional staffers have predicted that McConnell will wait until November — so that the roughly one dozen vulnerable Democrats in hard-hit states like West Virginia can’t advertise a ‘yes’ vote on opioids legislation.” Stat has a point-by-point rundown of what’s in and not in the package.

From Kentucky Health News

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