Support for Patients &
Communities Act Passes Congress
Bill Awaits President’s Signature
How serious is America’s Opioid problem? One answer is serious enough to make Democrats and Republicans stop their daily squabbling on Capitol Hill to pass legislation almost unanimously.
The Support for Patients and Communities Act is on its way to the President’s desk where it is expected that President Trump will sign it into law. The measure passed the Senate 98-1 after being approved by the House 393-8. Yes, this certainly has all the makings of an election day is coming push to show the public that the government is working on their behalf, but those of us on the front lines of the opioid crisis are more than happy to accept whatever federal support we can get.
The CDC estimates that more than 200,00 Americans fatally overdosed on opioids between 1999 and 2016 with little to indicate that things are improving. So clearly a lot more action is needed.
While this new bill is limited in scope, it does offer some much-needed help. The bill creates more flexibility for Medicaid patients in need of treatment. Previously, Medicaid refused to reimburse inpatient treatment at facilities with more than 16 beds. Few of those facilities exist and even fewer accept Medicaid. The new bill will pay for up to 30 days of treatment at larger residential centers.
The legislation also makes several regulatory changes. Restrictions on who can prescribe medication to treat opioid addictions have been eased while penalties to drug manufacturers who contribute to the overprescribing of opioids have been strengthened. The bill also expands a program to make the overdose reversing drug Naloxone more available to first responders and gives states more flexibility in using federal funds to combat the opioid crisis.
These are all necessary actions, but most on Capitol Hill agree it’s nowhere near enough. Representative Elijah Cummings (D-MD) telling Time Magazine “Unless we significantly expand funding and resources for treatment, this national crisis will continue to worsen. This epidemic is killing 134 people a day, but only 1 in 10 people with the disease are getting treatment.”
With deficits growing and budget fights likely awaiting the next congress after election day, it may be difficult to secure more significant funding to combat this national emergency. Those of us in the recovery community are grateful for whatever help we can get, but will also continue to demand more.