Senate Reviewing Legislation Addressing Opioid Epidemic

The U.S. Senate has reached an agreement on a comprehensive bill addressing the opioid epidemic, following the lifting of a legislative hold. The bipartisan legislation, known as the Synthetics Trafficking and Overdose Prevention (STOP) Act, would create new postal requirements designed to stem the flow of fentanyl and other opioids into the U.S. from abroad, a top priority of the Trump administration.

The proposal mandates that the U.S. Postal Service provide information to U.S. Customs and Border Protection on 70 percent of packages abroad by the end of 2018 – a measure that specifically targets shipments of opioids from China. In addition to combatting drug trafficking, the bill would expand programs for drug prevention, treatment, and recovery; authorize Medicaid to pay for the treatment of babies who have been exposed to opioids in the womb; and allow the National Institutes of Health to accelerate research into new, nonaddictive painkillers.

“[The bill] emphasizes prevention, making sure we have more people who can treat people with addiction … it supports people in recovery, [and] it does reflect what the science tells us,” said Regina LaBelle, former chief of staff at the Office of National Drug Control Policy. “There’s always more than can be done, but in an election year, I think this is pretty good.”

The STOP Act is expected to receive widespread support from Senators of both parties. Following passage, it will have to be reconciled with bipartisan legislation passed by the U.S. House of Representatives in June 2018.

Sources: The Washington Post, September 6, 2018; The New York Times, September 10, 2018.