Senate Looking To Crack Down On Opioid Addiction

Legislation to reauthorize federal funding for opioid prevention, education, treatment programs, and coverage took a giant leap forward on Tuesday after the measure passed in the House passed and the Senate Health Committee voted to advance its version to the full Senate, Axios reported.

In a 386-37 vote, the House on Tuesday passed the Support for Patients and Communities Reauthorization (or SUPPORT) Act of 2023, which reauthorizes several programs that were part of the original law that was first passed in 2018 but expired at the end of September.

Meanwhile, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee (or HELP Committee) voted to advance the Senate version of the reauthorization bill introduced by ranking member Senator Bill Cassidy (R-TN) in November.

Cassidy proposed a version of the bill after he accused HELP Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-VT) of dragging his feet on reauthorizing the measure after it expired in September.

In remarks during Tuesday’s hearing, Senator Cassidy said the Support Reauthorization Act would reauthorize federal funding for residential treatment programs, first responder training, and resources for recovering addicts re-entering the workforce.

Cassidy noted that the current opioid epidemic has devastated American families and communities, with thousands dying each month from drug overdoses. He said the current opioid crisis makes the reauthorization of the SUPPORT Act “so important.”

The reauthorization package also contains other opioid-focused bills that have already been introduced, including a measure to allow doctors to prescribe controlled substances used to treat opioid addiction through telemedicine appointments.

During the pandemic, the DEA relaxed its restrictions on prescribing controlled substances through telemedicine but rolled back the flexibility after the pandemic ended, prompting pushback from healthcare providers and lawmakers from both parties, The Hill reported.

In addition to advancing the Support Reauthorization Act, the HELP Committee also voted to advance the AREA Act (Advancing Research in Education) which reauthorizes the Education Sciences Reform Act that expired in 2008.