Rep. Walden announces broader tools in opioid fight

In April, Rep. Greg Walden, center, meets in White Salmon with Klickitat County Sheriff Bob Songer and White Salmon-Bingen police chief Mike Hepner at the National Prescription Drug Take Back Day event.

Photo by Kirby Neumann-Rea
In April, Rep. Greg Walden, center, meets in White Salmon with Klickitat County Sheriff Bob Songer and White Salmon-Bingen police chief Mike Hepner at the National Prescription Drug Take Back Day event.



New federal legislation directed at combating opioid addictions mark “a day of hope for families who are dealing with opioids and other substance,” U.S. Dist. 2 House Rep. Greg Walden (R-Hood River) said in a telephone press conference with reporters Oct. 24. The bills were signed into law that day by President Donald Trump.

“Help is on the way, with funding and changes in federal law, through solid bipartisan support,” said Walden, citing work on the legislation dating to 2014.

Walden cited near-unanimous votes in the House and Senate for the Substance Use-Disorder Prevention that Promotes Opioid Recovery and Treatment (SUPPORT) for Patients and Communities Act, which comes with $20 billion in funding.

Walden worked on the legislation from his Energy and Commerce Committee and round-tables around District 2, “where we learned a lot from those coping with addiction, and from parents, police, psychiatrists and people in the health system,” Walden said.

“We know things need to be done; we will continue to legislate and evaluate,” he said, noting that about 72,000 died nationally from opioid addiction.

“More Oregonians die from it than in traffic accidents. We knew there was a real problem to address. This legislation will save lives and bring hope to the communities,” Walden said.

“What this legislation is about is getting help to our communities,” he said. “Addiction often has started with a prescription, we heard it over and over and over again.” The bills provide incentives for alternative pain management, which was not done before, he said. Also, they expand treatment for women by lifting what he called “artificial limitations in the statute,” and provide more in-residence treatment.

He called it “an unprecedented focus on a single issue, extending grants for mental, behavioral health and prevention services to local health centers.”

Walden said the legislation contains 27 pages of different analysis on various changes in federal law pertaining to treatment and prevention, along with “stopping, to the best of our ability, the import of fentanyl” via the mail.

“Breaking down barriers” to prevention and treatment access is mainly how the new legislation works where similar laws in the past did not, according to Walden.

“This reforms how Medicare and Medicaid work in his area. For example, a juvenile in detention was cut off from Medicaid when he went into incarceration, and this renews (coverage) automatically when he goes into treatment.”

The bills also update what Walden called “arcane statutes” limiting the Food and Drug Administration’s authority regarding border inspection.

“Customs can now stop shipments of goods and detain them. We’ll see how it works. We’ll legislate and evaluate,” Walden said. FDA had asked for, and has received, more funding and authority regarding inspections, he stated.

INSIDE THE BILLS

According to Walden:

H.R. 6, the Substance Use-Disorder Prevention that Promotes Opioid Recovery and Treatment (SUPPORT) for Patients and Communities Act will help in our overall efforts to advance treatment and recovery initiatives, improve prevention, protect our communities, and bolster our efforts to fight deadly illicit synthetic drugs like fentanyl.

The SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act follows the passage of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act and the 21st Century Cures Act last Congress, the $4 billion appropriated in 2018 the omnibus earlier this year to help combat the opioid crisis, as well as the $6.7 billion included in the recent Defense-Labor-HHS appropriations package to boost programs that fight, treat and stop substance abuse, and support access to mental health services. This is the most significant congressional effort against a single drug crisis in history.

How the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act will Help Combat the Opioid Crisis:

  1. Treatment and Recovery: Improve and expand access to treatment and recovery services, provide incentives for enhanced care, coordination, and innovation; establish comprehensive opioid recovery centers
  2. Prevention: Encourage non-addictive opioid alternatives to treat pain; improve data to identify and help at-risk patients and families; address high prescribing rates while enhancing prescription drug monitoring programs
  3. Protecting Communities: Give law enforcement tools to get dangerous drugs out of our communities; better intercept illicit opioids at international mail facilities; improve access to federal resources for local communities
  4. Fighting Fentanyl: Better tackle ever-changing synthetic drugs; crack down on foreign shipments of illicit drugs; provide grants for local communities to combat fentanyl


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