Senators unveil bipartisan bill to fight opioid epidemic

Senators unveil bipartisan bill to fight opioid epidemic
© Greg Nash

A bipartisan group of senators is introducing legislation Tuesday to address the opioid epidemic, framing it as a follow-up bill to the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) signed into law in 2016.

Dubbed CARA 2.0, the legislation includes a host of policy changes, such as establishing a three-day initial prescribing limit on opioids for acute pain, beefing up services to promote recovery and aiming to increase the availability of treatment.

The legislation is a mixture of policy changes and increased funding authorizations, in light of a two-year budget deal passed earlier this month that includes $6 billion for the opioid and mental health crises.

Those introducing the bill include Sens. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanHarvard biz school honors Wilbur Ross GOP senators blast White House aide over trade remarks Community development impact remains clear with NMTC post-tax reform MORE (R-Ohio), Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseGAO to look into Trump's reduction of carbon social costs Overnight Energy: Pruitt used security detail to run errands | Dems want probe into Pruitt's Chick-fil-A dealings | Yellowstone superintendent says he was forced out Dems seek watchdog probe into Pruitt’s Chick-fil-A dealings MORE (D-R.I.), Shelley Moore CapitoShelley Wellons Moore CapitoLawmakers prep for coming wave of self-driving cars Overnight Health Care — Sponsored by PCMA — Dems want answers on DOJ ObamaCare decision Senate committee to vote on bill tackling maternal death rates next week MORE (R-W.Va.), Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharHillicon Valley: Judge approves AT&T-Time Warner deal in blow to DOJ | Dems renew push to secure state voting systems | Seattle reverses course on tax after Amazon backlash | Trump, senators headed for cyber clash | More Tesla layoffs Judge approves AT&T-Time Warner merger opposed by Trump The Hill's Morning Report — Trump: `A very great moment in the history of the world’ MORE (D-Minn.), Dan SullivanDaniel Scott SullivanFacebook gives 500 pages of answers to lawmakers' data privacy questions Senate panel unanimously approves water infrastructure bill Senate GOP anger over McCain insult grows MORE (R-Alaska), Maggie HassanMargaret (Maggie) HassanOvernight Health Care — Sponsored by PCMA — Health chief grilled on Trump drug pricing plan, ObamaCare case Health chief: Decision not to defend ObamaCare in court not a 'policy' position Overnight Health Care — Sponsored by PCMA — VA reform bill heads to Trump's desk MORE (D-N.H.), Bill CassidyWilliam (Bill) Morgan CassidyDems seek to leverage ObamaCare fight for midterms GOP sen says Trump, Canada spat is like ‘a fight with your spouse’ HSAs expansion is a key to health care freedom MORE (R-La.) and Maria CantwellMaria Elaine CantwellEnergy commission sees no national security risk from coal plant closures OPEC and Russia may raise oil output under pressure from Trump Hillicon Valley: Lawmakers target Chinese tech giants | Dems move to save top cyber post | Trump gets a new CIA chief | Ryan delays election security briefing | Twitter CEO meets lawmakers MORE (D-Wash.).

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The bipartisan bill includes some measures similar to those removed from the original CARA bill passed in 2016, such as an initiative to bolster youth recovery support services and a provision requiring physicians and pharmacists to use their state prescription drug monitoring program before prescribing or dispensing opioids.

Additionally, the legislation would let states waive the cap on the number of patients a physician can prescribe buprenorphine — a medicine used to treat opioid addiction — and increase penalties for opioid manufacturers failing to report suspicious orders.  

CARA 2.0 authorizes $1 billion in additional funding. Some $10 million would fund a national education campaign on opioids; $300 million would increase training for first responders and their access to an opioid overdose reversal drug; another $300 million would expand medication-assisted treatment; and $200 million would help build more recovery support services, for example.

To draft the first CARA bill, Portman and Whitehouse helped convene five national forums comprised of experts on prevention, treatment, law enforcement and recovery.

The opioid epidemic hasn’t shown signs of abating, as overdose deaths increased nearly 28 percent from 2015 to 2016, according to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

On the other side of the Capitol, the House Energy and Commerce Committee is working on legislation aimed at combating the opioid epidemic. Chairman Greg WaldenGregory (Greg) Paul WaldenCongress tackles mounting opioid epidemic Facebook faces new data firestorm What the net neutrality repeal means MORE (R-Ore.) hopes to pass the measures out of the House by Memorial Day weekend.