Groups Speak Up on New Senate Opioid Bill

The Senate passed the Opioid Crisis Response Act this week, drawing a variety of responses from organizations inside and outside of the medical field. Is it enough to combat the opioid epidemic?

On Monday, the U.S. Senate passed the Opioid Crisis Response Act, legislation that aims to stop the spread of opioid addiction through such actions as preventing fentanyl trafficking and improving access to treatment.

And though the bill, which has bipartisan support, addresses important strategies, association leaders say the legislation is limited in its approach and lacks the funding and urgency needed to reduce overdose deaths.

“While the legislation passed today is a step in the right direction, greater investments are needed to respond to a crisis of this magnitude,” said Arthur C. Evans Jr., CEO of the American Psychological Association, in a press release. “We cannot counter the opioid epidemic without developing an effective, evidence-based substance abuse treatment system. In fact, only about 1 in 10 Americans with a substance use disorder receives adequate treatment, and this statistic won’t change without major new investments in the full spectrum of prevention, treatment, and recovery services. We did this for HIV/AIDS, and now we need to do it with opioids.”

Jonathan Thompson, executive director of the National Sheriffs Association, said in an interview with Politico that Congress’ response to the crisis has been slow and reactive and has failed to deliver the comprehensive, preventive approach to drug addiction that’s needed. “We’ve got to stop putting people in body bags,” he said.

To create a more robust plan to stop the opioid crisis, Evans suggested that policymakers pursue additional steps, including:

  • promoting nonpharmacologic treatment plans for chronic pain
  • providing a continuum of services for people addicted to opioids, including increased recovery support services such as housing, education, and employment opportunities
  • adopting an electronic health records standard for mental health and substance use treatment providers
  • increasing research funding on prevention and treatment related to opioid addiction

Eli Briggs, government affairs director for the National Association of County and City Health Officials, told Politico that while federal initiatives are important, local communities are more likely to create change.

“This epidemic is going to be stopped community by community, not from the federal level, not the state level. it’s going to happen at the local level because every community is different,” he said. “Until the funding gets down all the way to the local level, we’re not going to turn the corner.”

Other groups have praised the legislation for taking promising first steps. American Trucking Associations (ATA) said the new regulations on drug hair testing, which require the secretary of Health and Human Services to report to Congress about the status of hair-testing guidelines, are imperative to improving their work.

“Our fleets need to depend on—and need the government to recognize—the most accurate, reliable, and fail-safe drug-testing methods available,” said Bill Sullivan, ATA’s executive vice president of advocacy, in an interview with Bulk Transporter. “The time has come to get this done.”

(APitch/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Jeff Hsin

By Jeff Hsin


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