On April 10, the Alliance for Strong Families and Communities Public Policy and Mobilization Office sent a letter on behalf of the strategic action network to the Senate HELP Committee in response to  the draft Opioid Crisis Response Act of 2018 (see the draft summary and full draft). This draft bipartisan legislation is a product of six bipartisan hearings and input from a range of stakeholders including governors, state and local officials, doctors, families, and federal agency leads. The Alliance was pleased to see investments in youth prevention and recovery, plans of safe care for infants, trauma support services and mental health care for children in school settings, and opioid recovery centers as part of the federal response. In addition, the proposed legislation creates a federal interagency taskforce to develop best practices for trauma-informed identification, referral and support.

In the Alliance network’s response, we urged the committee to drive public policy to address root causes of addiction, invest in two-generation treatment and recovery options to keep families intact, and ensure those, young and old, with lived experiences are at the center of any trauma-informed approach. The Alliance also asked the Committee to ensure that federal investments are just, fair and inclusive, and do not contribute to health and well-being inequities.

Thank you to the members of the strategic action network who offered their expertise and experience over the past eight months to inform and develop the input provided to Congress.

The Senate HELP Committee is scheduled to mark up its bill April 24. The Senate Finance Committee continues to draft its legislation (see the Alliance network’s input letter, sent to Senate Finance in February); the House Ways and Means Committee recently released its white paper that identifies recommendations; and the House Energy and Commerce has held a series of legislative hearings so far this year.  We expect to see active engagement on this issue by Congress over the next few months.

If you are interested in elevating the network’s key messages to Congress, as well as your state elected officials, email Carla Plaza, director of public policy and government relations at the Alliance.

Below is a summary of the proposed legislation per the press release. Bolded text indicates sections of the bill that the Alliance strategic action network weighed in on.

  • Spurs development of non-addictive painkillers, and other strategies to prevent, treat, and manage pain and substance use disorders through additional flexibility for the National Institutes of Health and clarifying guidance from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
  • Encourages responsible prescribing behavior by clarifying FDA authority to require packaging options for certain drugs, such as opioids to allow a set treatment duration, for example “blister packs,” for patients who may only need a three- or seven-day supply of opioids.
  • Clarifies FDA authorities to require manufacturers to give patients simple and safe options to dispose of unused opioids.
  • Improves detection and seizure of illegal drugs, such as fentanyl, through stronger FDA and Customer Border Protection coordination.
  • Clarifies FDA’s development and regulatory pathways for medical product manufacturers through guidance for new non-addictive and non-opioid pain products.
  • Provides support for states to improve their Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs (PDMPs) and encourage data sharing between states so doctors and pharmacies can know if patients have a history of substance misuse.
  • Strengthens the health care workforce to increase access to mental health services in schools and to substance use disorder treatment in underserved areas.
  • Authorizes CDC’s work to combat the opioid crisis, including providing grants for states, localities, and tribes to collect data and implement key prevention strategies.
  • Addresses the effects of the opioids crisis on infants, children, and families, including by helping states improve plans of safe care for infants born with neonatal abstinence syndrome and helping to address child and youth trauma.
  • Authorizes the Department of Labor to address the economic and workforce impacts for communities affected by the opioid crisis, through grants targeted at workforce shortages for the substance use and mental health treatment workforce, and to align job training and treatment services.
  • Updates Drug Enforcement Administration regulations to improve treatment access for patients in rural and underserved areas through telemedicine, while maintaining proper safeguards.
  • Allows hospice programs to safely and properly dispose of unneeded controlled substances to help reduce the risk of diversion and misuse.

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