According to Richard Frank, assistant secretary for planning and evaluation at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), federal efforts to combat the opioid abuse crisis include expansion of medication assisted treatment (MAT) for opioid use disorder, among other things. HHS has a pretty good chance of driving more funding toward states for MAT, even though there is some opposition to the approach.
At the House committee hearing this month where Frank presented the HHS strategy, representatives also pointed to a priority list of bills that aim to chip away at abuse and addiction issues. Many of the bills have varying degrees of support, but consider the bigger picture of today’s legislative landscape.
Why nothing gets done
Congressional leaders in both houses and from both sides of aisle are proposing measures that run the gamut from the routine co-prescription of naloxone with opioids, to policies that would limit access to certain prescription drugs for seniors who are at-risk for abusing them. In reality, the proposals have a slim chance of becoming law—not because they don’t have merit, but because they are all too easily lost in the abundance of ideas before this Congress.
Individually, legislators clearly have the political will to work on substance abuse policy, but more collective initiative is required. We truly don’t need more ideas. We need more action.
Just to give you a hint about the sheer volume of ideas, here is a sample of the current bills on the table. This is by no means an exhaustive list.
H.R.2298 — Medicare Patient Safety and Drug Abuse Prevention Act
H.R. 2536 — Recovery Enhancement for Addiction Treatment Act
H.R.2850 — Stop Overdose Stat Act of 2015
H.R. 2872 — Opioid Addiction Treatment Modernization Act
H.R. 3014 — Medical Controlled Substances Transportation Act of 2015