House Approves First Slate of Opioid Bills (1)

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By Alex Ruoff

The House approved 25 bills meant to give public health officials new powers and make other changes to fight the opioid epidemic June 12.

Most of the measures were waived through the House unanimously and largely seek to create grant programs, new federal research, guidance, and reports on issues related to the opioid epidemic, which contributed to more than 64,000 overdose deaths in 2016. Lawmakers voted on two other bills later June 12: H.R. 5327, which would create a grant program to establish comprehensive opioid treatment centers, and H.R. 5041, which would let hospice employees dispose of people’s medications after they die.

“We have worked long and hard to help communities in despair,” Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said on the House floor.

The hospice bill, H.R. 5041, was approved unanimously, and the grant program measure passed 383-13.

One of the approved measures would call on the U.S. surgeon general to report to Congress on the effects of new psychoactive substances including synthetic drugs on children, while another would give the National Institutes of Health more flexibility to use its grant funding to research opioid alternatives.

The House is slated to take up more than a dozen other opioid bills later in the week and as many as 20 more the following week.

The more controversial measures, such as expanding Medicaid payments for some inpatient drug treatment services and allowing nurses to prescribe the addiction treatment drug buprenorphine, could come up for votes next week, Republican and Democratic staffers told Bloomberg Law June 12.

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