On July 13, 2016, the Senate passed by 92-2 vote the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2016 (S. 524), a comprehensive set of 18 bills targeting the opioid crisis, which bill the U.S. House of Representatives approved in a 407-5 vote on July 8, 2016.
Highlights of the bill include:
- Inter-Agency Task Force. Establishing an inter-agency task force to establish pain management best practices with leadership comprised of representatives from various federal agencies.
- Treatment Alternatives to Incarceration. Awarding grants to states for establishing treatment alternatives to incarceration programs, which will require extensive collaboration between state criminal justice agencies and state substance abuse systems; examples include community-based substance use diversion programs, drug courts, mental health courts, and veterans treatment courts.
- Opioid Reversal Drugs. Awarding grants to states for developing pharmacy standing orders for opioid overdose reversal medication and implementing best practices and training materials for prescribing personnel.
- Support for Veterans. Developing and improving opioid safety measures by the Department of Veterans Affairs, including establishing enhanced standards for use of routine and random urine drug tests for patients and establishing multi-faceted pain management teams.
- Support for Pregnant and Postpartum Women. Building a pilot program to award grants to state substance abuse agencies to support family-based services for pregnant and postpartum women with a primary diagnosis of a substance abuse (or opioid use) disorder and identifying gaps in services furnished to pregnant and postpartum women on a continuum of care.
Notably, the final bill does not have any funding attached, despite the Obama Administration’s request for $1.1 billion in funding for this measure. With the U.S. federal government’s fiscal year ending on September 30, Congress will have only a few weeks following its summer recess to address funding for this bill. President Obama is still expected to sign the bill into law in late 2016, although the exact timing is unclear.
*Blake Walsh is admitted only in Tennessee. Her practice is supervised by principals of the firm admitted in the District of Columbia.