The House of Representatives today approved a package of bills to address the opioid epidemic spreading across the country. The legislation would help states and communities increase their capacity to treat patients in recovery and provide tools to prevent addiction and overdoses.
Two bipartisan initiatives authored by Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT) were included in S. 524, the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act.
During debate on the bill Wednesday, Welch spoke on the floor of the House of Representatives about the impact opioid abuse has had on communities across Vermont. Earlier this week, he met with city, health care, and law enforcement leaders in Burlington to discuss the crisis in Vermont.
"This problem is creating heartbreak and heartache in all of our communities. Vermont has been extraordinary in its efforts to attack this problem .[but] challenges remain because we don't have enough treatment funds," Welch said. "It is tremendous that there has been such a bipartisan coming-together to sponsor practical steps that we can take. But, I hope we're ready to take the next steps and actually focus on getting resources back to our communities that are doing the very challenging work at the local level."
Read the text of his remarks here.
To assist in quickly identifying when, where, and how overdoses are occurring, Welch's first initiative requires the U.S. Comptroller General to identify barriers to real-time reporting of data on drug overdoses to law enforcement agencies and solutions for eliminating them.
Welch's second initiative directs an inter-agency task force created in the legislation to review, modify, and update best practices for pain management and prescribing pain medication. The task force will report information and recommendations on developing new non-opioid forms of pain relief and examining existing non-opioid alternatives that could be better utilized.
The legislation was approved by the House on by a vote of 400 to five and is expected to head to a House-Senate conference committee to reconcile differences with a similar legislation passed by the Senate on March 10, 2016.