U.S. House and Senate leaders from both parties have agreed to a new spending package to help curb the opioid epidemic. The bills – representing a compromise between legislation passed by the House in June and by the Senate in September – increase funding for law enforcement and addiction treatment activities.
The package includes the repeal of a rule that blocks states from spending federal Medicaid funds on addiction treatment at centers with more than 16 beds, allowing states to expand these centers’ capacities to accommodate the growing epidemic. The legislation also funds research for opioid alternatives, allows the FDA to implement new opioid packaging requirements, and expands the ability of physicians and nurse practitioners to prescribe buprenorphine, an anti-addiction medication.
In addition, the legislation mandates that the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) collect information on 70 percent of international packages by the end of 2018, including all shipments from China. This aspect is aimed at helping the agency identify and intercept synthetic fentanyl and other highly addictive substances imported through the mail. USPS would be required to collect information on 100 percent of these packages by 2020.
“While there is more work to be done, this bipartisan legislation takes an important step forward and will save lives,” said a group of committee leaders from both parties in a statement provided to The New York Times.
The Congressional Budget Office has not yet provided a cost estimate for the compromise bill, but the Senate version had been estimated to cost $8 billion over five years. The legislation is expected to receive bipartisan support in both chambers of Congress before being sent to the White House for the President’s signature.