Healthcare

Upton casts doubt on adding mental health to opioid conference

Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) is expressing skepticism about the idea of attaching a mental health bill to the conference committee working on opioid legislation.

{mosads}The idea of adding in mental health, particularly a bill from Sens. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), has been floated on the Senate side as a way to push the mental health issue forward, given that the opioid legislation is likely to move. 

But the House is working on its own mental health bill. 

“I think that’ll be hard,” Upton said of adding mental health to the opioid conference. “I mean we all want that [opioid] bill to move for sure, we all want mental health, there’s enough time, there is enough time to get this done.”

The House bill, from Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pa.), has been changed significantly to address Democratic concerns, and has become more like the Senate bill, though differences still remain. 

“Putting it in opioids might be too much,” Upton said. However, he added that there is still some uncertainty, depending on how long it takes the Senate to appoint members of the conference committee that will bridge the gap between the House and Senate bills on opioid abuse. 

“But, you know, the Senate still has to appoint their conferees, so depending on how long it takes them to move,” Upton added. 

Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), who wants the opioid bill to get signed into law as quickly as possible, has also expressed concern that adding in mental health could slow down the process. 

The House bill is scheduled for a markup on Wednesday. Democrats have been pleased with the changes made so far, though they are still pushing for more changes, including ways to increase funding and access to mental health services. 

“I think we’re in a very good place,” Upton said of the House bill. “We’re not done yet. Discussions are going to continue, but I think we’ll be ready to move in a very strong, bipartisan way next week.”

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