Alexander: Spending Bill Includes Billions to Help Fight Opioid Crisis

Posted on March 22, 2018

WASHINGTON, D.C., March 21, 2018 – Senate health committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said the Fiscal Year 2018 Omnibus Appropriations bill includes “$3.6 billion to help fight the opioids crisis – an increase of $2.55 billion or 244 percent – a major boost to those on the frontlines of this epidemic.” 

“The devastation of the opioid crisis has touched nearly every community,” Alexander said. “This funding will help the National Institutes of Health develop a non-addictive painkiller – which may be the antidote to the opioid crisis. Dr. Collins has predicted that, with adequate funding, we could have a non-addictive painkiller within the next five years. This bill will also support states and communities – those on the frontlines of this epidemic – as they come up with solutions to tackle the opioid crisis.”

Included in the Fiscal Year 2018 Omnibus Appropriations bill released today: 

  • $500 million for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), including for research to develop a non-addictive pain killer. Alexander and Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.) have introduced legislation to provide NIH with more flexible authority to conduct innovative research, including research into public health threats including the opioid crisis. 
  • $500 million for state opioid grants under the 21st Century Cures Act, legislation Alexander was the principal Senate sponsor of in 2016.
  • $330 million for law enforcement grant programs, including those that were authorized by the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA).
  • $1 billion for state opioid grants, which is double the amount authorized under the 21st Century Cures Act, legislation Alexander was the principal Senate sponsor of in 2016.
  • In addition, this bill includes $476 million-- an increase of $350 million-- for Department of Health and Human Service grants to help fight the opioid crisis, including funding for state Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs (PDMPs)— the databases that track controlled substance prescriptions allowing doctors and pharmacists to check a patient’s history with controlled substances before writing or filling a prescription. Some of this funding will go toward the National All Schedules Prescription Electronic Reporting (NASPER) system for the first time since 2010. NASPER was reauthorized by the Senate health committee in 2016. Between 2015-2017, the number of prescriptions written for opioids has decreased by 14 percent in Tennessee, which the Tennessee Department of Health attributes to doctors and pharmacists using Tennessee’s PDMP more.

Alexander serves as the chairman of the Senate health committee, where he sponsored the 21st Century Cures Act of 2016, which included $1 billion over two years in state grants to states to help fight the opioid crisis. 

Alexander has held a series of six hearing so far this Congress to examine ways that the federal government can be a better partner for states on the front lines of the crisis:

On October 5, 2017, the Senate health committee held the first hearing of the series which focused on the federal response to the opioid crisis, and on November 30, 2017, the committee heard from witnesses representing states, communities, and providers on what they are doing and what, if any, new authorities they need from the federal government to fight the crisis. On January 9, 2018, the committee heard from author Sam Quinones, who has extensively researched and written about the opioid crisis. On February 8, 2018, the committee held a hearing to look the effects the opioid crisis has on children and families. On February 27, 2018, the committee held a hearing on the role technology and data play in responding to the crisis. On March 8, the committee heard from some of the nation’s governors about how they are coming up with innovative solutions and leading the fight against the unique problems their states face in the midst of the opioid crisis.

 

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