House panel announces opioid enforcement bills ahead of hearing

Greg Nash

A House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on Thursday unveiled eight bills it will examine during a hearing next week on enforcement-related measures to help combat the opioid crisis.

Specifically, the hearing Wednesday will delve into how to help communities balance enforcement with patient safety; it’s the first of three hearings the panel will convene on opioid legislation.

Energy and Commerce Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) hopes for legislation to pass the House by Memorial Day weekend in an effort to staunch the opioid epidemic now killing more Americans per year than car accidents.

The policies lawmakers will examine include updating scheduling guidelines to help clamp down on powerful synthetic opioids, letting hospice workers dispose of unused opioids, expanding access to behavioral health telemedicine in rural areas, making it harder to traffic synthetic drugs and more.


“As we continue our efforts to tackle this epidemic, it’s imperative we strike the right balance between necessary enforcement and patient safety,” Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee, said in a statement.

“As the people’s representatives, we need to make sure law enforcement can get dangerous, illicit drugs out of our communities and licensed health professionals are able to safely dispose of unused prescriptions, particularly opioids.”

Deaths from opioid overdoses spiked nearly 28 percent from 2015 to 2016, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

President Trump declared the opioid epidemic a national public health emergency in late October, a move the administration extended another 90 days in mid-January. Advocates had been disappointed the move didn’t free up millions of dollars and some have said the declaration appears to not have changed much.

The spending deal passed last month included $6 billion over two years for the opioid and mental health crises.

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