House Passes First Wave of Opioid Bills
This week, the House of Representatives kicked off a two-week focus on legislation to address the nation’s opioid crisis. The House passed dozens of measures this week and is slated to vote on more opioid legislation next week with the hopes of advancing a comprehensive package to the Senate. Bills that advanced this week included efforts to expand: telemedicine prescribing for medication-assisted treatment, student loan forgiveness for addiction treatment professionals, the use of electronic health records by behavioral health providers and recovery housing best practices.
All of the bills advanced with bipartisan support, and included many National Council priorities, such as:
- The Special Registration for Telemedicine Clarification Act (H.R. 5483): This bill would require the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) to establish a special registration process for certain providers that wish to prescribe controlled substances via telemedicine. This would remove barriers to accessing medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorders in rural and frontier areas, and is a direct result of National Council advocacy efforts.
- The Substance Use Disorder Workforce Loan Repayment Act (H.R. 5102): This bill would create a program to help addiction treatment professionals repay student loans, adding incentives for students to pursue these professions and ultimately increasing timely access to treatment for individuals living with addiction. This legislation was introduced as a result of education and advocacy by the National Council and the Association for Behavioral Health in Massachusetts.
- Improving Access to Behavioral Health Information Technology Act (H.R. 3331): A longtime National Council priority, this bill would incentivize behavioral health providers to adopt electronic health records (EHRs). Behavioral health providers have adopted EHRs more slowly than physical health providers as they have traditionally not had the resources needed to implement the technology. A companion bill passed the Senate in May. Find our full analysis of this bill here.
- Ensuring Access to Quality Sober Living Act (H.R.4684): The bill would require the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to identify and disseminate recovery housing best practices, such as the National Alliance for Recovery Residence’s (NARR) quality standards, to the states and provide them with technical assistance to adopt the standards. The bill aligns closely with the recommendations of the National Council’s State Policy Guide for Supporting Recovery Housing.
The National Council applauds the continued advocacy of its members, many of whom played a key role in the introduction and advancement of these bills. For more detail on opioid bills that passed the House this week, see the following House Energy and Commerce Committee press release.
House leaders will hold votes on a second round of opioid legislation next week. More controversial measures are expected to be included in next week’s roundup, including efforts to loosen the IMD rule for residential addiction treatment and 42 CFR Part 2, the federal regulation governing the privacy of addiction treatment records. A full list of bills to be considered next week will be posted here as they become available.