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 PortmanHouse votes to boost retirement savings The Hill's Morning Report - White House, Congress: Urgency of now around budget WANTED: A Republican with courage MORE (R-Ohio), Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseOvernight Energy: Democrats ask if EPA chief misled on vehicle emissions | Dem senators want NBC debate focused on climate change | 2020 hopeful John Delaney unveils T climate plan Democratic senators want NBC primary debate to focus on climate change Overnight Energy: EPA watchdog finds Pruitt spent 4K on 'excessive' travel | Agency defends Pruitt expenses | Lawmakers push EPA to recover money | Inslee proposes spending T for green jobs MORE (D-R.I.), Shelley Moore CapitoShelley Wellons Moore CapitoCongress, White House near deal on spending, debt limit GOP presses Trump to make a deal on spending Congressional Women's Softball team releases roster MORE (R-W.Va.), Amy KlobucharAmy Jean Klobuchar2020 hopeful John Delaney unveils T climate plan Samantha Bee slams 2020 Democrats who go on Fox News Poll: Harris, Warren climb as Biden maintains lead MORE (D-Minn.), Dan SullivanDaniel Scott SullivanHillicon Valley: Assange hit with 17 more charges | Facebook removes record 2.2B fake profiles | Senate passes anti-robocall bill | Senators offer bill to help companies remove Huawei equipment Senators offer bipartisan bill to help US firms remove Huawei equipment from networks Senators introduce bill to prevent border agency from selling personal data MORE (R-Alaska), Maggie HassanMargaret (Maggie) HassanBipartisan senators reveal sweeping health care package 'American Taliban' released from prison 'American Taliban' set to be released after years behind bars MORE (D-N.H.), Bill CassidyWilliam (Bill) Morgan CassidyBipartisan senators reveal sweeping health care package Senate passes bill to undo tax increase on Gold Star military families Overnight Health Care — Presented by Campaign for Accountability — House passes drug pricing bills amid ObamaCare row | Senate Republicans running away from Alabama abortion law | Ocasio-Cortez confronts CEO over K drug price tag MORE (R-La.) and Maria CantwellMaria Elaine CantwellDon't revive logging in national forests Top Finance Dem offers bill to help those repaying student loans save for retirement Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg meets with senators on privacy 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 WaldenOvernight Health Care — Presented by PCMA — Senators unveil sweeping bipartisan health care package | House lawmakers float Medicare pricing reforms | Dems offer bill to guarantee abortion access Here are the eight Republicans who voted with Democrats on the Equality Act House approves anti-LGBT discrimination Equality Act MORE (R-Ore.) hopes to pass the measures out of the House by Memorial Day weekend.