Last night, the U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved bipartisan legislation that will provide much-needed new funding for Vermont and other states battling the opioid epidemic devastating families and communities across the country. Also included in the bill is new funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for research on the treatment and cure of life threatening diseases.
The legislation provides $1 billion in grants to states, localities, and service organizations working on the front lines of the epidemic. States experiencing a high incidence of opioid addiction will be given priority in the distribution of funds.
The 21st Century Cures Act (H.R. 34) was developed by Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT) and his colleagues on the House Energy and Commerce Committee. In addition to funding for opioid abuse and medical research, the bill includes two Welch-authored provisions. The Tick-Borne Disease Research Accountability Act (H.R. 789) will ensure coordination among federal agencies to promote Lyme disease research. The Ensuring Access to Quality Medicaid Providers Act (H.R. 3716) will reduce fraud and abuse in the Medicaid program.
The legislation passed the House by a vote of 392-26. It is expected to pass the Senate before Congress adjourns for the year and be signed into law by President Obama.
"Across Vermont, families and communities are reeling from the devastating impact of opioid addiction. Three years ago, Governor Peter Shumlin turned a bright light on the hidden crisis in Vermont which led to a nationwide acknowledgment of an epidemic ravaging rural America," Rep. Welch said. "Congress is finally poised to provide long overdue resources to assist states battling this heartbreaking scourge on our communities. In addition, this legislation will jumpstart research to find treatments and cures for life threatening diseases, including cancer and Alzheimer's."
The 21st Century Cures Act sets aside $6 billion to implement the following cutting-edge health initiatives.
$1 billion in federal grants to states fighting the nationwide opioid epidemic;
$1.5 billion to fund BRAIN Initiative research to treat, cure, and prevent brain disorders;
$1.8 billion to fund the Obama Administration's Cancer Moonshot initiative to accelerate research to prevent, treat, and cure cancer;
$1.5 billion for research and development on drugs tailored to individuals, rather than one-size-fits-all treatments; and
An expansion of mental health services
Welch has been a longtime advocate for increased funding for medical research. His bipartisan legislation to increase NIH funding for pediatric cancer research was signed into law by President Obama in 2014.