U.S. Representatives Stephanie Murphy, D-Fla., and Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., this week introduced a multi-faceted, bipartisan bill to combat the opioid epidemic by strengthening prevention, improving treatment, and supporting law enforcement efforts. The bill, H.R. 5531, the Opioid Emergency Response Act, includes provisions to improve access to treatment, invest in life-saving research, and crack down on synthetic drugs and the criminals who supply them.
“Our nation, including many communities in central Florida, is in the midst of an opioid epidemic, and we must act swiftly and decisively to prevent the crisis from destroying more lives and tearing more communities apart,” said Murphy, a member of the Bipartisan Heroin Task Force. “I’m proud to work with Congressman Buchanan to propose bipartisan solutions that will help prevent and treat opioid addiction and crack down on the criminals who profit from the pain and death of others.”
“Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of death among Americans under 50,” said Buchanan. “That statistic is shocking, unacceptable and tells me we need to do much more to address this epidemic. Drugs are destroying lives and families. This sweeping bipartisan bill builds upon efforts in Congress to establish much-needed reforms and invest significant resources to most-effectively respond to the current crisis.”
Specifically, the Opioid Emergency Response Act includes provisions to:
- Reduce opioid use in hospital emergency departments by incentivizing the use of non-opioid alternatives to ease pain in patients;
- Establish a new initiative at the National Institutes of Health to expand research on opioid misuse, pain, and non-addictive, non-opioid alternatives to treat pain;
- Provide federal grants to states to help them improve access to treatment, support patients in recovery, and prevent overdoses;
- Expand access to addiction and mental health treatment among seniors enrolled in Medicare;
- Help stem the flow of dangerous drugs like fentanyl and carfentanil into the United States by requiring more intensive screening at U.S. Postal Service facilities;
- Modernize the Controlled Substances Act and outlaw 13 synthetic drugs that have been identified by the Drug Enforcement Administration as an immediate threat to public health and provide a streamlined approach for sentencing synthetic drug trafficking in federal courts; and,
- Require the VA to study the link between prescription opioids and an alarmingly high rate of suicides among veterans.
According to the latest estimates, over 175 Americans now die each day—and more than 60,000 die every year—as a result of opioid overdoses. According to an Orlando Sentinel editorial, there were 5,300 opioids-related deaths across Florida in 2016, a 36 percent increase from the year before.
Murphy is also the Democratic co-lead of the Road to Recovery Act, a bipartisan bill to repeal a federal law—called the “IMD exclusion”—and authorize Medicaid to cover addiction treatment at certain licensed, accredited residential facilities.