This summer, in Tarrant County, it was reported that a baseball player lost his life to a drug overdose. While the details are still under investigation, many families throughout our country have experienced a similar tragedy due to the opioid epidemic. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 130 Americans die from an overdose each day.
It doesn’t have to be this way. I am fighting along with the president to end this epidemic. On Oct. 24, 2018, President Donald Trump signed into law the SUPPORT Act. This legislation provides realistic solutions that span the breadth of the crisis — from prevention and treatment to education and enforcement. This legislation will improve treatment for those with substance use disorders, fight deadly fentanyl, bolster the efforts of agents at our international mail facilities and provide vital resources for new innovative alternatives to treat pain.
In a time when our country seems so divided, Congress was able to put political differences aside and put patients first to find solutions to address this crisis. This law is another tool in the toolbox for communities and federal agencies to successfully combat the epidemic.
This law allows state Medicaid programs to cover care at certain institutions for mental diseases for patients ages 21-64 with any kind of substance abuse disorders. Also, it clarified state Medicaid programs’ ability to provide care for infants with neonatal abstinence syndrome in residential pediatric recovery centers and to provide accompanying counseling or other services to mothers.
In addition, this law made several changes to how the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) handles pain medications. The Department of Health and Human Services is required to submit a report to Congress on the impact of regulations and state laws that limit the length, quantity or dosage of an opioid prescription. These changes help ensure that proper and effective pain treatment by opioids is not inhibited for Americans who need them.
Also, the SUPPORT Act enables better pain management for our nation’s Medicare beneficiaries, ranging from increased access to substance use disorder treatment, including through the use of telehealth, to modification of physician payment for certain non-opioid treatments in Ambulatory Surgery Centers. The SUPPORT Act contains Medicare provisions that encourage the use of non-opioid analgesics. It also aims to increase efficiency and decrease diversions regarding prescriptions by requiring e-prescribing for the coverage of covered Medicare Part D controlled substances.
Lastly, this law expands Medicare coverage to include Opioid Treatment Programs for the purpose of providing Medication Assisted Treatment. These efforts should provide improved access to treatment for Medicare beneficiaries who have substance use disorders while also incentivizing the use of opioid alternatives. This is important to prevent the development of substance use disorders.
A component in stopping the spread of this epidemic is bolstering the resources available to Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and The United States Postal Services to detect illegal substances coming into the country. This law makes improving detection and strengthening the coordination between the FDA and CBP a priority. In March of 2018, I was shocked by the limited tools available to CBP to detect these substances coming into the country during a trip to John F. Kennedy Airport to visit an international mail facility.
A key to fighting this epidemic is through innovation in the development of non-addictive pain and addiction treatment. A bill I championed, the 21st Century Tools for Pain and Addiction Treatments, is included in the SUPPORT Act and requires the FDA to hold at least one public meeting to address the challenges and barriers of developing non-addictive medical products intended to treat pain or addiction. The FDA is also required to issue or update existing guidance documents to help address challenges to developing non-addictive medical products to treat pain. I worked closely with the FDA to get the policy in this law correct and to ensure that it will clarify those pathways for products that we so desperately need.
I agree with President Trump when he said, “Together, we will face this challenge as a national family with conviction, with unity, and with a commitment to love and support our neighbors in times of dire need. Working together, we will defeat this opioid epidemic.”
This law is an example of how Congress can come together for the good of Americans. If we continue to put forward patient-centered bipartisan legislation such as the SUPPORT Act, I am confident we will defeat this epidemic.