During the week ending May 13, 2016, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a comprehensive set of 18 bills aimed at curbing the opioid epidemic. The largest of these bills, the Comprehensive Opioid Abuse Reduction Act of 2016 (H.R. 5046), passed by a 413-5 vote in the House on May 12, 2016.  This bill authorizes US $103 million dollars in grant funding for fiscal years 2017 through 2021, and makes the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) responsible for administering grants to state, local, and tribal governments to provide a range of opioid abuse services.  These services include developing and expanding existing programs to combat opioid abuse, training first responders in administering opioid overdose reversal medication, and providing dedicated opioid treatment and prevention services for veterans.  In March 2016, the Senate passed a similar measure, titled the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2016 (S. 524), which authorizes the Attorney General to award similar grants.

The remaining House bills direct a number of federal agencies to implement a variety of measures designed to combat the opioid epidemic, to include (1) educating youth and teenagers who are prescribed opioid drugs for sports injuries of the dangers of addiction, (2) educating health care professionals regarding proper dispensing of opioid overdose reversal medication, (3) supporting family-based services for pregnant and postpartum women with a primary diagnosis of substance use disorder, (4) permitting partial filling of opioid drug prescriptions, and (5) establishing an inter-agency task force to develop best practices for pain management and opioid prescribing.

The House and the Senate will now work together to negotiate compromise legislation to present to President Obama before Congress begins its summer recess in July.

*Blake Walsh is admitted only in Tennessee. Her practice is supervised by principals of the firm admitted in the District of Columbia.