Democrats unsatisfied with latest bill combating opioid epidemic

WASHINGTON, DC >> After Congress passed a bill aimed combating the nation’s opioid epidemic, many Democrats say that the new legislation is not enough.

A statement from the White House Thursday focused on the need for more funding for addiction treatment programs.

“Every day that Republicans stand in the way of action to fund opioid treatment means more opportunities to save lives: 78 Americans die every day from opioid overdose,” a statement from the White House read. “While the President will sign the bill once it reaches his desk because some action is better than none, he won’t stop fighting to secure the resources this public health crisis demands.”

The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act was passed by the Senate Thursday and will head to the President’s desk for his signature.

The bill increases access to naloxone – the overdose reversal drug more commonly referred to as Narcan – and reauthorizes former programs that encourage addiction treatment.

Democrats fought for an inclusion of $920 million in funding for states to provide more comprehensive addiction treatment, but the funding was not included in the final version of the bill.

U.S. Senator Chris Murphy said Thursday that he was frustrated with Republican refusal to allow funding to be a part of the final bill and that he will continue to fight for the funding.

“This bill is necessary to confront the heroin and opioid epidemic, but it is not even close to being the comprehensive solution we need,” Murphy said. “I’ve met with doctors, law enforcement and individuals struggling with addiction, and they all know that we can’t beat this disease without a lot more funding for treatment programs, expanding access to medication-assisted therapy, and stopping prescription pain medications from flooding the streets. It’s inexcusable that Republican Congressional leaders are shutting down for the summer without providing communities with the money they need to save lives.”

While funding Democrats wanted was not included, the bill does allow for the following:

  • Nurse practitioners and physician assistants will be able to prescribe buprenorphine, a medication used to treat opioid addiction
  • Allows for easier access to Narcan
  • Allows for, though does not pay for, grants that support treatment, training and enforcement programs and grants to community recovery organizations
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