Congress moves closer to passing sweeping opioid, prescription drug abuse legislation

ST. GEORGE — Legislation aiming to combat the opioid and prescription drug abuse epidemic has cleared one of its final hurdles. On Friday, the House overwhelmingly approved a conference report that seeks to resolve differences between the House and Senate – both of which passed the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act earlier this year, with variations. The conference report is being considered by the Senate Tuesday.

Utah Rep. Chris Stewart Stewart has been a proponent of this and other legislation that addresses the opioid abuse epidemic. He summed up the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act as follows:

This legislation gives states and local communities more flexibility to attack the opioid abuse issues that are unique to their communities. It also updates best practices for prescribers of pain medication and improves drug abuse programs.

The Act seeks to make sweeping changes to federal law. Some of these changes include requiring the FDA to consult with advisory committees prior to approving or labeling specific new opioids, increasing opioid and pain research, creating a comprehensive grant program at the Department of Justice, boosting resources to treat incarcerated individual suffering from addiction disorders, strengthening prescription drug monitoring programs and expanding the availability of naloxone, which can counter the effects of a heroin or opioid overdose.

For a complete list of proposed changes, click here.

In May, Stewart delivered a speech to the House (see video at the top of this report) advocating for the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act.

“Every day, more than 78 Americans die from opium overdoses — think about that — that is more than three every hour,” Stewart said. “Nearly 2 million Americans are addicted to or use opiate-based painkillers. Unfortunately and very sadly my home state of Utah is all too familiar with these statistics, as we are fifth in the nation in opium-related deaths.”

Sen. Orrin Hatch has also described the effect opioids have had on Utah. In a speech before the conference committee on the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, he said:

This is an epidemic that is devastating individuals, families and communities across the country. My home state of Utah has been particularly hard hit; in 2014 alone, 289 Utahns died due to opioid abuse, which was more than half of all drug-overdose related deaths in the state for that year.

Urging lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to pass the legislation, Stewart said in May he was pleased to see such an outpouring of bipartisan support. The bill originally passed the Senate 94-1 and the House 400-5 – adding an amendment that resulted in the bill and amendment going before the conference committee, thus the report now pending approval.

Hatch served on the conference committee. According to a news release from his office, he won inclusion of several provisions that will directly affect Utah, including protections for infants born to mothers suffering from opioid addiction and Medicare and Medicaid amendments.

In his news release, Hatch cited a December 2015 Reuters report stating a child is born dependent on opioids every 19 minutes. Additionally, he cited a Utah Health Status Update released in July 2013 that said 1,476 Utah mothers were reported to have used illicit drugs during pregnancy during the period 2009-2012. As a result, 29.5 percent of babies born to these mothers tested positive for illicit drugs at birth — approximately 109 babies per year.

The provisions incorporated in the conference report strengthen the existing plan of safe care for infants born and identified as being affected by substance abuse or withdrawal symptoms, Hatch said, as well as Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder.

Among amendments involving Medicaid and Medicare, the proposed law would allow Medicare Part D prescription drug plans to work with at-risk beneficiaries to identify one physician to prescribe opioids and one pharmacy to fill all the opioid prescriptions.

This is a common sense step that will improve patient care and reduced abuse,” Hatch said. “It also makes it more likely that beneficiaries with a problem get the help they need.”

The legislative package has also received the support of over 200 addiction advocacy groups.

The committee’s conference report was overwhelmingly approved by the House Friday 407-5. From Utah, Reps. Stewart, Rob Bishop, Jason Chaffetz and Mia Love all voted in favor of the conference report Friday as well as the bill with amendment in May.

In the Senate Tuesday, several senators, including Hatch, have spoken during the morning session on the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act and accompanying conference report. Votes could be taken as early as Tuesday afternoon, concluding the Senate’s consideration of the Act.

From Utah, Hatch has expressed support for the bill and the conference report, served on the conference committee, co-sponsored the original bill and voted for it in March. Sen. Mike Lee did not vote in May.

Any final text of the bill will require signature by the president before becoming law.

“This is how the legislative process is supposed to work,” Hatch said in his speech to the conference committee. “Both chambers pass a bipartisan bill.  A conference committee resolves the differences.”

St. George News Editor-in-Chief contributed to this report.


Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.

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  • ladybugavenger July 12, 2016 at 3:03 pm

    Well, you gotta weed out the doctors that over prescribe opiates for profit. Oh! and legalize marijuana!

  • .... July 12, 2016 at 3:26 pm

    Well that’s bad news for Dumbob and Real No Life. it’s a good thing they have mental hygiene assistance LOL ! ha ha ha I beat them to it.. this shouldn’t take long lmao ! ……….here it comes.

  • Real Life July 12, 2016 at 10:44 pm

    Uh oh Dumpster, you better hurry and load up. They are about to shut down your supply. You will have to turn to something else to get fueled up on for your incredibly stupid posts.

    • .... July 13, 2016 at 7:24 am

      Ha ha I got you first. ! Now go print more of your incredibility stupid comments make sure you load up on your meds first. Lmao ! you are as easy as it gets !

      • Real Life July 13, 2016 at 11:26 pm

        Once again Dunpster, you miss the point. I seriously doubt you even read the articles that you comment on. You go straight to the comment section, and for some silly reason, you are proud that you get the first comment. You are a pest. A feeble minded idiot. It has to be drug induced, because you simply can’t be this stupid. But then again, drugs will make you stupid.

  • ladybugavenger July 13, 2016 at 2:29 pm

    Yeah that’s it make more laws and watch the pill poppers turn to heroin.

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