House passes comprehensive bill to combat growing opioid epidemic
iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The House of Representatives passed a bipartisan, comprehensive bill Friday that aims at curbing the country’s growing opioid epidemic.
By a vote of 396-14, the House passed H.R. 6, the SUPPORT for Patients Communities Act, which is the collective product of the lower chamber’s extensive effort this year to combat the opioid crisis.
The bill contains several Medicaid, Medicare, and public health reforms, such as adding a review of current opioid prescriptions and screening for opioid use disorder as part of the Welcome to Medicare initial examination. It also aims at reducing the trafficking of Chinese fentanyl into the United States by giving law enforcement new tools to detect suspicious packages in the mail.
The measure was crafted by Energy and Commerce Chairman Rep. Greg Walden, who called it “the biggest effort” Congress has taken to address opioids.
During debate on the bill Friday morning, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy spoke passionately about the issue – highlighting the story of his press secretary, Erin Perrine, whose brother Eamon Callahan died of a drug overdose two years ago.
“Erin was 24 days from her wedding when she learned she would never see her brother again—that he would not be there to celebrate with her on one of the happiest days of her life,” McCarthy, R-Calif., said. “Let that be a lesson to us all: There is no event so joyful, no place so safe, that it is untouched by the drug crisis. Even a wedding chapel. Even here, in the halls of power. Even in my office.”
The House had already passed a bevy of pieces of legislation that address opioid abuse, but this bill combines them into one measure that will operate as the legislative vehicle to send a package to the Senate.
In the Senate, all three committees of jurisdiction working on a companion package have reported their bills and leaders believe the package is ready for the full Senate to consider.
“The relevant chairmen and the Democrat ranking members and others are working on setting up an agreement for floor consideration,” Don Stewart, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, said. “All three of the committees reported their bills with wide bipartisan support. The Leader is obviously a strong supporter of the bills we’ve passed and the bills that are coming to the floor.”
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