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Shelley Starkey

Senate Committees Moving on Opioid Legislation

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Following an action-packed week for opioid-related legislation in the House, multiple Senate committees took up the mantle this week, hosting hearings, releasing new bills and considering legislation ahead of the Memorial Day recess. As bills advance out of committees, the full Senate is expected to consider the large package of opioid legislation later this summer. Meanwhile, similar efforts in the House are expected to make it to the floor in the coming weeks. The collective work of both chambers of Congress seek to address the opioid crisis from a number of fronts including prevention, treatment and recovery.

Senate Judiciary Committee

On Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved five bipartisan bills focused on limiting the supply and demand of prescription and illicit opioids. One of the approved bills, the Substance Abuse Prevention Act (S. 2789), passed with the support of the National Council and would reauthorize the Office of National Drug Control Policy’s (ONDCP) two major grant programs and the Department of Justice’s drug court program, among others. Visit the Senate Judiciary Committee’s website to watch the full meeting and find text of the five bills.

Senate Finance Committee

The Senate Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over Medicare and Medicaid, released 22 bills on Wednesday designed to address the opioid crisis promising to conduct a full Committee markup “in the coming weeks.” Eleven of the bills address concerns in Medicaid, including improving reimbursement for and expanding the use of telehealth services for opioid use disorders, improving services for infants and children impacted by opioid addiction, and better informing states about non-opioid pain treatment options available under Medicaid. Eight more bills would target Medicare, and include provisions that would require screening beneficiaries for addictions, improve patient education, and enhance program transparency through information sharing upgrades. The remaining three bills address human services programs, all directed towards supporting families with recovery through residential addiction treatment services and reunification programs. For a full list of the introduced legislation, click here.

Other Committee Activities

On Wednesday, the Senate Special Committee on Aging held a hearing titled “Preventing and Treating Opioid Misuse Among Older Americans,” where they heard from experts on the opioid epidemic’s impact on older adults including physicians, individuals with lived experience, and federal officials. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, opioid misuse among Americans ages 50 and older have doubled from 2002 to 2014. The panelists testifying before the committee called for the expansion of inpatient residential treatment, the use of medication-assisted treatment and efforts to address the ongoing psychiatric workforce shortage across the nation. To watch the full hearing and to read witnesses’ testimony, click here.

As the flurry of efforts to address the opioid epidemic continue in Congress, follow along with Capitol Connector for important updates each week.