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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 PortmanCandymakers meet virtually with lawmakers for annual fly-in, discuss Halloween safety Democrats look past Election Day in Barrett fight  Another fiscal year, another CR; it's time for this nonsense to end MORE (R-Ohio), Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseSupreme Court battle turns into 2020 proxy war Joe Biden and Democrats are wallowing in dark money — and hypocrisy Senators dial down rhetoric at Barrett hearing after 2018 Kavanaugh brawl MORE (D-R.I.), Shelley Moore CapitoShelley Wellons Moore CapitoBill to expand support for community addiction treatment passes House Hillicon Valley: Senate panel votes to subpoena Big Tech executives | Amazon says over 19,000 workers tested positive for COVID-19 | Democrats demand DHS release report warning of election interference GOP senators call on Trump to oppose nationalizing 5G MORE (R-W.Va.), Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharSenate Democrats seek to alleviate public concern about some results not being available on election night Washington flooded with Women's March protesters ahead of Barrett confirmation vote Supreme Court battle turns into 2020 proxy war MORE (D-Minn.), Dan SullivanDaniel Scott SullivanThe Hill's Campaign Report: Democrats break fundraising records in Senate races The Hill's Campaign Report: Trump, Biden hit campaign trail in Florida Cook Political Report moves Senate races in Texas, Georgia, Alaska toward Democrats MORE (R-Alaska), Maggie HassanMargaret (Maggie) HassanHollywood gives Biden's digital campaign final star-studded push Democrats step up hardball tactics as Supreme Court fight heats up Congress needs to prioritize government digital service delivery MORE (D-N.H.), Bill CassidyWilliam (Bill) Morgan CassidyMichigan Republican isolating after positive coronavirus test GOP Rep. Mike Bost tests positive for COVID-19 Top Democrats introduce resolution calling for mask mandate, testing program in Senate MORE (R-La.) and Maria CantwellMaria Elaine CantwellHillicon Valley: Senate panel votes to subpoena Big Tech executives | Amazon says over 19,000 workers tested positive for COVID-19 | Democrats demand DHS release report warning of election interference Senate panel votes to subpoena Big Tech executives Hillicon Valley: Subpoenas for Facebook, Google and Twitter on the cards | Wray rebuffs mail-in voting conspiracies | Reps. raise mass surveillance concerns 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 WaldenRace heats up for top GOP post on powerful Energy and Commerce Committee Asbestos ban stalls in Congress amid partisan fight Hillicon Valley: Judge's ruling creates fresh hurdle for TikTok | House passes bills to secure energy sector against cyberattacks | Biden campaign urges Facebook to remove Trump posts spreading 'falsehoods' MORE (R-Ore.) hopes to pass the measures out of the House by Memorial Day weekend.