Today the House passed the Comprehensive Opioid Abuse Reduction Act of 2016 (COARA), H.R. 5046, legislation introduced by Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.).
The bill authorizes $103 million a year in grants to help states pay for the prevention and treatment of addiction to heroin and prescription opiates. Additionally the bill creates a comprehensive opioid abuse reduction program at the Department of Justice, which would provide training and resources for first responders and law enforcement, aid in criminal investigations for the unlawful distribution of opioids and expand drug courts among several other provisions.
Congressman Sensenbrenner stated yesterday: “Today’s passage of the Comprehensive Opioid Abuse Reduction Act is another important step forward in our fight against heroin and opioid addiction. It signals the seriousness of our national struggle with addiction, the need for immediate action, and the commitment of lawmakers to pass meaningful, bipartisan legislation. I’m optimistic about the future of this bill and the great good it will affect throughout the country.
But H.R. 5046, doesn’t actually provide new funding.
President Barack Obama and the White House said that until Congress provides additional funds, the House bills “would do little to help the thousands of Americans struggling with addiction.” The President has requested $1.1 billion in new funding to address the opioid crisis.
The House also passed H.R. 4641, which would create a task force to review and change “best practices” for pain management and prescribing pain medicines.
A few months ago the Senate passed its own plan S.524, the Comprehensive Addiction and Reform Act (CARA) which was sponsored by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI). The bills are similar, they both create agency task forces and provide federal grants for treatment and prevention. They both expand the availability of naloxone and other emergency treatments to reverse overdoses as well as provide help for pregnant women.
Now the House and the Senate have to come together to negotiate and create a compromise. But today was a step in the right direction in creating and passing legislation that will address the global epidemic of addiction in this country.
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