House approves bill expanding treatment for abuse of opioids

House passes sweeping opioids bill

The House of Representatives passed a bipartisan, comprehensive bill Friday that aims at curbing the country's growing opioid epidemic.

Approved 396-14, the measure packaged more than 50 individual bills and offered a minute of Capitol Hill comity amid bitter fights over immigration policy and social safety-net programs.

House leaders expect the Senate to consider the package, which hits pause on Medicaid-payment limits for drug treatment at certain facilities, creates a web-based "dashboard" of nationwide efforts and strategies to combat the opioid crisis and links overdose victims with follow-up treatment.

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The bill, titled the Substance Use-Disorder Prevention that Promotes Opioid Recovery and Treatment (SUPPORT) for Patients and Communities Act, builds onto other efforts by Congress in recent years to tackle the epidemic, including $4 billion in funding earlier this year in a large spending bill.

The package also includes new tools giving the Border Patrol and the U.S. Postal Service greater ability to crack down on those who sell or traffic synthetic drugs, and to identify and stop those drugs, particularly the deadly narcotic fentanyl, from entering the United States.

In urging the passage of the bill, many lawmakers told personal stories about how opioid abuse has affected constituents, family and friends. The provision was initially tailored only for opioid treatment, drawing criticism from Democrats for focusing on too small a population.

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Some Democrats say Congress needs to go big and approve $100 billion over 10 years to combat the addiction crisis, akin to the campaign to tackle HIV/AIDs almost three decades ago.

Also folded into the bill was a measure known as Jessie's Law, which requires the government to come up with guidelines for doctors and hospitals on how to best display a patient's addiction history to prevent relapse.

"Millions of Medicare recipients lack adequate access to mental health services, which are critical for aging Americans", said Rep. Noem, a member of the House Ways and Means Committee.

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"This bill makes incremental changes to support those affected by the opioid crisis, but is far from ideal", he said in a statement. Many Democrats have repeatedly knocked Republicans for repealing parts of the Affordable Care Act. "All three of the committees reported their bills with wide bipartisan support". The Senate will now be presented with the barrage of bills for assent before they move to the desk of the President for his official signature, at which point the bills would pass into law. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said recently that the Senate could debate opioid legislation this year.

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