The United States is facing an uncontrollable crisis of drug overdoses. Despite efforts from both political parties to address it, Washington is struggling to effectively combat addiction through its programs.
In 2018, there was a bipartisan effort between Republicans, Democrats, and former President Donald Trump to pass a bill that allocated $20 billion towards addressing treatment, prevention, and recovery for drug addiction. However, now, five years later, the SUPPORT Act has expired and the number of overdose deaths in the US has increased by over 60%, largely due to the presence of illicit fentanyl. This fight has become a difficult and exhausting struggle.
Despite the fact that 105,000 Americans lost their lives last year, Congress is not showing much urgency in renewing the expired law as of Sept. 30. This is not due to political divide, but rather an understanding that a new law would not provide immediate solutions.
Libby Jones, the program director of the Overdose Prevention Initiative at the Global Health Advocacy Incubator, stated that we are facing a crisis that is larger than what we could have predicted five years ago when the SUPPORT Act was first implemented. She expressed disappointment if this new legislation is not approved.
Congress will not be providing assistance. The House is currently lacking a speaker due to the firing of a Republican representative.Kevin McCarthy
The Republican party has not made any advancements in finding a replacement for (R-Calif.) this month, resulting in a halt in the passing of legislation.
When questioned about the lack of action from the Senate committee in charge of the law, the chair did not provide a reason for the delay.Bernie Sanders
Senator (I-Vt.) stated that there are other more pressing matters to address. He explained, after outlining his actions to improve the primary care system and decrease drug prices, that they are currently tackling various issues.
Sanders’ approach mirrors the battle against fentanyl, the man-made opioid responsible for the majority of fatalities. The potency and accessibility of fentanyl, combined with societal factors leading individuals to turn to drug use, have hindered efforts to discourage its consumption and provide treatment for those who do.
The SUPPORT Act does not need to be passed in order for Congress to provide funding for combating opioids. However, if they do not pass another law, they will miss the chance to experiment with different strategies. This has caused disappointment among advocates.
903-page bill aimed at overhauling the nation’s health care system.
Although the House is not functioning effectively, it has made more progress in passing legislation compared to the Senate, which is currently controlled by the Democratic party. The House Energy and Commerce Committee has given unanimous approval to a 903-page bill that seeks to revamp the country’s healthcare system.new SUPPORT Act
The measure, which was proposed in July, does not seem to have a strong sense of urgency, possibly due to its limited scope.
cannot rewordBill Cassidy
A bill has been proposed by Louisiana, but there are no Democrats who have proposed it.
Senator Cassidy stated that not meeting the deadline to renew the SUPPORT Act could endanger important resources.
Even though he has not publicly urged lawmakers to approve the bill, President Joe Biden is also feeling frustrated.
A representative from the Office of National Drug Control Policy stated that the White House is urging Congress to assist in our efforts to combat drug trafficking and prevent loss of life. The Administration remains dedicated to tirelessly providing resources and assistance to all Americans.
‘We have been advocating for this since January.’
Lawmakers continue to prioritize addressing the opioid crisis.
In December, Congress removed the waiver and training requirements for physicians prescribing buprenorphine, a medication that aids in ceasing fentanyl use, in an effort to increase accessibility to treatment. The Drug Enforcement Administration has also taken action in this regard. extended eased pandemic rules for prescribing
Telemedicine will be available until the end of 2024.
A group of representatives from both political parties, who are dedicated to addressing mental health and substance abuse, have put forth over 70 bills in this Congress to combat the overdose crisis. However, none of these bills have evoked the same sense of urgency as the package of bills that was passed five years ago, known as the SUPPORT Act.
The expiration of the law on October 1st releases states from the obligation to provide coverage for all FDA-approved treatments for opioid use disorder under Medicaid. However, public health advocates do not anticipate any state to discontinue this coverage.
Funding for enhancing accessibility to treatment and recovery has lapsed, but it will persist if Congress has already allocated the funds.
The SUPPORT Act allows states to utilize federal Medicaid funds to provide up to 30 days of treatment for individuals with opioid use disorder in mental health facilities, despite a previous law from 1965 that prohibited addiction treatment in these larger institutions.
According to officials from the two states, South Dakota and Tennessee, when the option ended on September 30th, Medicaid recipients with substance use disorder were directed to treatment facilities that were not affected by the “IMD exclusion.”
In 2022, the House Energy and Commerce Committee is suggesting the repeal of the 1965 rule.
The bill to renew the SUPPORT Act.
The bill was approved in July by the chair of the panel’s Health Subcommittee.Brett Guthrie
The proposed legislation from (R-Ky.) aims to prevent states from removing individuals from Medicaid while they are in prison. This would ensure that their coverage is reinstated upon release, with the goal of providing them with access to healthcare during a time when they are at a high risk of fatal overdose.
The proposed legislation would also allow pregnant individuals in pretrial detention to maintain their Medicaid benefits.
“We had hoped for a quicker progression,” stated Guthrie. “However, we are currently at our current state,” he added, expressing his desire for prompt implementation of new laws.
The House Judiciary Committee, which holds some responsibility for the bill,
The legislation was voted on and passed with a 29-3 majority at the end of September.
The panel proposed a measure to classify xylazine, a horse sedative, as a Schedule III controlled substance for three years. This would subject it to further regulation by the DEA due to its lethal combination with illicit fentanyl used by drug traffickers.
The Judiciary amendment revises the wording of the Energy and Commerce bill, which proposes to permanently schedule the veterinary drug, commonly referred to as tranq.
The HELP Committee in the Senate has not taken any action. According to Sanders’ staff, he is currently working on it.
This has left public health advocates feeling frustrated. An anonymous lobbyist for mental health and substance use, who spoke candidly, expressed their exasperation by stating, “We have been advocating for this since January.”
This is in direct opposition to to address climate change
The collaborative endeavor in Congress to tackle the issue of climate change.
In 2018, the SUPPORT Act was successfully passed. President Trump proclaimed that the legislation would put an end to the rampant issue of drug addiction in the United States or at least significantly decrease its impact. He officially signed the bill in October of that year.
Jones stated that it was a significant achievement.
‘Not a success’
However, it has not put an end to the problem.
Regina LaBelle, a former acting director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy in the Biden administration and current leader of the Addiction and Public Policy Initiative at Georgetown University’s O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law, stated that surpassing 100,000 deaths is not a sign of success in this country. She also noted that it is not a success in terms of policy.
A portion of the issue was probably beyond the influence of legislators.
The pandemic has caused a significant increase in isolation, which is often seen as a contributing factor to addiction. This has led to changes in people’s lives that can impact their overall well-being, including a decrease in social and community support. Additionally, it has exacerbated an already existing mental health crisis, as noted by experts and medical professionals who specialize in substance abuse.
Fentanyl has been an unwavering adversary.
Even a small dose can be fatal. When mixed with other substances such as tranquilizers, it becomes more difficult to treat an overdose. This drug is inexpensive and readily produced by cartels in Mexico, often camouflaged as legitimate medication.
The negative perception surrounding addiction, limited access to addiction experts and resources, and financial obstacles are some of the factors that prevent many individuals with opioid use disorder from receiving treatment. These challenges further complicate the already difficult task of persuading individuals with addiction to seek help.
The President of the American Society of Addiction Medicine, Brian Hurley, believes that Congress should allow pharmacies to dispense methadone, a substance similar to buprenorphine that aids in recovery and relapse prevention. He suggests that this change would be a significant step in addressing the current opioid overdose crisis in the United States.
Methadone is currently heavily regulated by the DEA and is only accessible at specialized clinics due to its addictive nature as an opioid, which can potentially lead to fatal overdoses.
A few legislators are in favor, but some doctors with the ability to prescribe it are against it, cautioning that it may result in an increase in fatalities caused by methadone overdose.
According to public health advocates, it is unfortunate that Congress is not willing to take risks despite the severity of the crisis.
Jones stated that just making minor adjustments and reauthorizing the system will not alter its current course.
This report was contributed to by Megan Messerly.