The 21st Century Cures Act is headed to the desk of President Barack Obama for final approval after the bill was passed in a 94-5 vote by the Senate on Wednesday.
The sweeping legislation, which was approved by the House of Representatives by a vote of 392-26 last week, provides $1 billion over two years to states through existing grant programs for addiction treatment and prevention, prescription drug monitoring programs, opioid treatment programs and workforce development.
Proponents of the bill say it puts an emphasis on evidence-based treatment programs, strengthens mental health parity laws and includes grants to increase the number of psychologists and psychiatrists across the U.S.
Detractors, meanwhile, argue that the bill is a potentially dangerous concession to the pharmaceutical industry, as it weakens testing standards for new drugs. They also caution that funding for the bill’s extensive measures must still be appropriated through separate legislation.
Still, the Treatment Advocacy Center, a national not-for-profit group supporting timely and effective treatment of severe mental illness, was “thrilled” to see the Senate pass the bill, the organization’s CEO, John Snook, said in a news release.
“This bill is not a ceiling, but a newly elevated national floor of better access to treatment, diversion, data and the recognition that people with serious mental illness and their families deserve better than the status quo,” Snook said in a statement.