Last month, the House of Representatives unveiled a proactive and significant series of bills aimed toward combatting and preventing abuse of prescription opioids. The bi-partisan package addressed a series of issues associated with the health risks and community fallout of opioid addiction. Measures included, among others, the creation of an inter-agency task force to improve physician transparency and accountability, and closer monitoring of babies born to opioid-addicted mothers. Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have come together to lend their efforts to thwarting this widespread problem that, According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is killing 44 Americans each day.
The Obama Administration is encouraged by the package, but says that it does little to actually solve the problem if it is not fully funded. The decision regarding how much financial backing these measures will get will be made in fiscal year 2017. The 18-bill package comes just two months after the Senate’s passing of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA). In a recent show of solidarity, 129 families who have lost a loved one to addiction assembled on the steps of the Capitol in an effort to urge Congress to address the mounting prescription painkiller crisis in the United States; this legislative package represents the most definitive and encouraging response to these cries, to date.
For the first time, it seems as though there is appropriate legislative attention being paid to this deadly epidemic. After decades of vacillation and finger-pointing, the scope and intricacies of prescription opioid abuse now seem to be understood by key decision-makers. Whether or not this will translate into tangible action remains to be seen; however, these new bills contain different and more inclusive language, better and more nuanced policies and a more committed approach to treatment and prevention. Lawmakers and prevention advocates alike are encouraged by this positive step. There remains, however, much more work to be done before we can finally declare prescription opioid abuse under control.