The White House says that without proper funding, the House bills “would do little to help the thousands of Americans struggling with addiction.”
Efforts to pass legislation to address the national opioid epidemic are chugging along in Washington. Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a diverse package of bills that would address a range of issues stemming from opioid abuse, including updating best practices for pain management, and expanding access to naloxone and medication-assisted treatment.
The House bills will be amended into the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), the Senate's own legislative package passed in March. The next step is for the two chambers to come together and create a bundle of compromise legislation to submit to President Obama.
But although the passing of the bills was celebrated by bipartisan House members, the finish line still remains in the distance, particularly in respect to the funding of the initiatives.
“It’s a very important start, but we need dollars, we need statutory changes and we need sustained focus and attention,” explained Robert Morrison, executive director of the National Association of State Alcohol and Drug Abuse Directors.
Once again, the real issue is that the money does not match the rhetoric. The largest bill in the House package establishes over $103 million in grants annually over the next five years. But the bill hasn't secured any actual funding to support itself. It will have to compete against other federal programs for funding in future spending legislation. The House has offered a solution without any teeth—and when it comes to federal programs, the teeth is always the funding.
Other bills in the House package include the Opioid Review Modernization Act, which would require the FDA to exercise greater scrutiny in making critical approval and labeling decisions, and to review prescriber education programs for extended-release and long-acting opioid medication.
The bills, though nice in theory, need financial resources to be implemented and to continue to operate. In a statement to lawmakers, the White House highlighted that without the necessary funding, the House bills “would do little to help the thousands of Americans struggling with addiction.”
“Every day that passes without Congressional action to support the treatment needs of those suffering from opioid use disorder is a missed opportunity to help the many communities facing the prescription opioid and heroin epidemic,” reads the White House statement. Opioid abuse will not “change by simply authorizing new grant programs, studies and reports.”