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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 PortmanThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden support, gas tax questions remain on infrastructure This week: Senate set for voting rights fight Portman: Republicans are 'absolutely' committed to bipartisan infrastructure bill MORE (R-Ohio), Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseProgressive groups ramp up pressure on Feinstein Centrists gain leverage over progressives in Senate infrastructure battle Lawmakers rally around cyber legislation following string of attacks MORE (D-R.I.), Shelley Moore CapitoShelley Wellons Moore CapitoOvernight Health Care: Takeaways on the Supreme Court's Obamacare decision | COVID-19 cost 5.5 million years of American life | Biden administration investing billions in antiviral pills for COVID-19 COVID-19 long-haulers press Congress for paid family leave Senate confirms Radhika Fox to lead EPA's water office MORE (R-W.Va.), Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharBottom Line This week: Senate set for voting rights fight Democrats scramble to unify before election bill brawl MORE (D-Minn.), Dan SullivanDaniel Scott SullivanSenate confirms Biden pick for No. 2 role at Interior Concerns grow over China's Taiwan plans China conducts amphibious landing drill near Taiwan after senators' visit MORE (R-Alaska), Maggie HassanMargaret (Maggie) HassanDemocrats facing tough reelections back bipartisan infrastructure deal Centrists gain foothold in infrastructure talks; cyber attacks at center of Biden-Putin meeting Centrists gain leverage over progressives in Senate infrastructure battle MORE (D-N.H.), Bill CassidyBill CassidyPortman: Republicans are 'absolutely' committed to bipartisan infrastructure bill Centrists gain foothold in infrastructure talks; cyber attacks at center of Biden-Putin meeting Centrists gain leverage over progressives in Senate infrastructure battle MORE (R-La.) and Maria CantwellMaria Elaine CantwellSenate Democrats threaten to block 2026 World Cup funds unless women's soccer team get equal pay Senate confirms Biden's top scientist Senate chaos: Johnson delays exit as votes pushed to Friday 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 WaldenEx-Rep. John Shimkus joins lobbying firm Lobbying world Give Republicans the climate credit they deserve MORE (R-Ore.) hopes to pass the measures out of the House by Memorial Day weekend.