House Passes Massive Legislative Package to Address Opioid Crisis

FILE – In this Nov. 8, 2017, file photo, a volunteer cleans up needles used for drug injection that were found at a homeless encampment in Everett, Wash. The 2018 legislative session begins on Monday, Jan. 8, 2018, and Gov. Jay Inslee’s supplemental budget proposal seeks to increase spending on efforts to combat the state’s opioid crisis, and a handful of bills, including legislation requested by Attorney General Bob Ferguson, have already been introduced, including companion measures in the House and Senate that seek to require health care providers to check the state’s prescription monitoring program in order to spot people who have visited multiple doctors to get opioids. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)

The House of Representatives on Friday passed the largest opioids legislative package in recent history, with provisions directing federal agencies to prioritize training, support recovery centers and conduct research on multiple fronts to help combat the growing epidemic.

The “Substance Use-Disorder Prevention that Promotes Opioid Recovery and Treatment (SUPPORT) for Patients and Communities Act” is made up of 58 House-approved individual bills, making it the most ambitious congressional push yet to address the opioids epidemic, which killed 42,000 people in 2016, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

One of the provisions in the legislation would direct the National Institutes of Health to develop non-addictive painkillers. Another would try to change how prescription pills are distributed to reduce the potential for abuse.

The element of the bill garnering perhaps the most attention, Jessie’s Law, would require that medical records list a patient’s addiction history. That measure is named after 30-year-old Jessie Grubb, who died from a prescription opioid overdose after her doctor, unaware of her previous seven year addiction to opioids, prescribed her pain pills following hip surgery.

Privacy advocates have argued against the move, arguing that it could discourage addicts from seeking treatment for fear of retaliation if their addiction is leaked to law enforcement.

According to the CDC, 40 percent of all the opioid deaths in 2016 — 46 per day — involved prescription drugs.

The package also includes new tools giving the Border Patrol and the U.S. Postal Service greater ability to crack down on those who sell or traffic synthetic drugs, and to identify and stop those drugs, particularly the deadly narcotic fentanyl, from entering the United States.

The legislation, which passed overwhelmingly 396-14 on Friday, now heads to the Senate for consideration.

Friday’s vote follows months of debate on both sides of Capitol Hill, with members holding hearings and voting bills out of committee in a rarely-seen bipartisan fashion.

“This is costing us lives. This is why we’re so focused on ending this opioid epidemic,” House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., told reporters at a press conference last week. “This is all hands on deck, and we’re going to keep at this for the sake of families that are hurting right now.”

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SOURCE: NBC News, Marianna Sotomayor