On October 25, the day before President Trump’s declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency, a group of Democratic senators and one independent introduced the Combating the Opioid Epidemic Act, which would allocate $45 billion in additional resources to state governments, through existing programs.
The legislation would:
- Authorize and appropriate $4,474,800,000 for substance abuse programs for the individual states for each of fiscal years 2018 through 2027.
- Add this funding to the Account for the State Response to the Opioid Abuse Crisis, which was created by the 21st Century Cures Act.
- Expand the use of funding already allowed under 21st Century Cures, so that states may also use this money for detection, surveillance, and treatment of co-occurring infections, as well as for surveillance, data collection and reporting on the number of opioid overdose deaths.
- Promote research on addiction and pain related to substance abuse, and authorizes and appropriates $50,400,000 for each of fiscal years 2018 through 2022. Under the bill, the National Institutes of Health would be responsible for distributing this money.
- Provide stable, long-term funding, a total of $45 billion over ten years to the states and over five years to research efforts.
- Not replace coverage for treatment under Medicaid or the treatment requirements for private insurance in the Affordable Care Act.
The $45 billion is the same amount Senate Republicans added last summer to their ObamaCare replacement bill to fight opioid abuse. The legislation has been endorsed by 14 national health care organizations.
One of the senators, Bob Casey (D-PA), called on Trump to formally endorse the bill. “[Opioid abuse] is straining the resources of local government, law enforcement and public health agencies,” Casey wrote in a letter to Trump. “I applaud your attention to this issue, but a stable, long-term investment in prevention, treatment, recovery and research is needed.”
However, Republican lawmakers have not yet committed to supporting the bill.
Kevin Smith, a spokesman for Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH), told The Daily Beast that the Ohio lawmaker “will continue to support more funding to combat this epidemic,” without committing to support the Democrats’ bill.
Portman played a key role in past attempts to provide opioid-related federal funding. When the Senate was considering the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA)—one of its Obamacare repeal and replace bills—he worked with leadership to secure $45 billion in funds to help offset the effects of proposed Medicaid cuts.
Another Republican proponent of opioid treatment funding, Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.V.), told the Daily Beast “more money” for the opioid epidemic is needed. But she did not express support for the Casey bill. “I think at this point we’re going to work through the appropriations process and also work with the president’s new [public] health emergency declaration to see where and if what funds could go in there,” Capito said. “I’m in favor of more funding and $45 billion was a good number we came up with.”
Along with Casey, the other Democratic supporters include Senators Ed Markey (D-MA), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Tom Udall (D-NM), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Al Franken (D-MN), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Angus King (I-ME), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), and Kamala Harris (D-CA).
“This epidemic knows no bounds. Whether impacting children, parents, or grandparents, the opioid crisis continues to grow in its intensity and its harm,” Casey said in a statement. “In my recent travels across Pennsylvania, to communities both large and small, one of the most common concerns in fighting the opioid crisis is the need for more support for local resources. This legislation incorporates bipartisan, commonsense principles to make sure we’re providing assistance where it is most needed.”