Comprehensive Bill to Fight Opioid Crisis Signed into Law
Includes Legislation by Murkowski to Address Prevention, Workforce Shortage, Recovery, and Research
U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) applauded President Trump for signing into law today the final bipartisan, bicameral opioid legislative package the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act, which passed the Senate on October 3 in a 98-1 vote. As a member of the Senate HELP Committee, Senator Murkowski secured provisions in the final package which bolster research initiatives, address the shortage of professionals to provide treatment and recovery services, and create a tangible system for measuring progress towards stopping the epidemic.
“Opioids have caused destruction for far too long. This epidemic has not only harmed those that are addicted, but also their loved ones and entire communities; this legislation supports those in recovery as well as their families and children. We are aware that in Alaska there is a shortage of trained professionals to treat addiction and substance abuse; this legislation will help bridge that gap. Alaska also needs more facilities for treatment and recovery; this bill will help address those needs. We know illegal drugs are entering our communities through the postal service; this bill works to stop that flow,” said Senator Murkowski. “Throughout the process of crafting this opioid package, I fought to ensure Alaska’s priorities were well-represented and the final product is one that will create long-term solutions and help heal our families and communities, creating a safer future for our state and nation.”
Senator Murkowski Provisions
- Cutting-Edge Research: Includes a bill Senator Murkowski cosponsored, the Advancing Cutting-Edge Research Act, to allow the National Institutes of Health to use its “other transactions authority” for high impact cutting-edge research projects.
- Jessie’s Law: Requires HHS to develop best practices for prominently displaying substance use treatment information in electronic health records, when requested by the patient. Senator Murkowski cosponsored this legislation.
- NHSC Professionals in Schools: Allows National Health Service Corps participants to provide behavioral and mental health services at community-based settings located in a shortage area. These services can be applied towards completion of their service requirements. Senator Murkowski was the Republican lead of this standalone legislation, the Improving Access to Mental Health Services, with Senator Smith.
- National Milestones to Measure Progress in Ending the Opioid Epidemic Act: Requires the development or identification of existing national indicators to measure success in curtailing the opioid crisis and significantly reversing the incidence and prevalence of opioid misuse and abuse and opioid-related mortality. Senator Murkowski introduced this standalone legislation with Senators Markey and Hassan.
- Opioid Treatment Workforce Shortage: Requires loan repayment to behavioral health providers practicing in substance use disorder treatment facilities in mental health professional shortage areas. Senator Murkowski was the lead Republican of this standalone legislation with Senators Donnelly and Hassan, the Substance Use Disorder Workforce Loan Repayment Act, to ensure we have enough workers to address those who are struggling with substance abuse.
- Preventing Illegal Postal Transportation: Requires the United States Postal Service to include detailed descriptions on packages and to increase regulatory practices regarding the delivery of packages to help ensure opioids and other harmful drugs cannot be illegally transported by mail.
- Tribal Inclusion: Extends funding for state targeted response grants from the 21st Century Cures Act to support Tribes, including language secured by Senator Sullivan (R-AK) allowing for a 5 percent set aside to tribal organizations and tribes. Also increases flexibility in utilizing the grants.
- Clarifying FDA Packaging: Clarifies FDA’s authority to require drug manufacturers to package certain opioids to allow for a set treatment duration– for example, a blister pack with a 3-day or 7-day supply. Also requires the FDA to provide patients with simple and safe options to dispose of unused opioids, such as safe disposal packaging or safe disposal systems for purposes of rendering unused drugs non-retrievable.
- Addressing Economic & Workforce Impacts: Authorizes the Department of Labor to award dislocated worker grants to states through the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act to address shortages in substance use disorder and mental health treatment workforce.
- Data Sharing: Clarifies states’ ability to access and share data from prescription drug monitoring program databases, including with providers and managed care entities.
- Help for Moms and Babies: Improves plans of safe care and support for substance-exposed babies and their mothers by modifying the Social Security Act to ensure that pregnant and postpartum women receiving care for substance use disorders in Institutions for Mental Disease (IMD) can continue to receive other Medicaid-covered care outside of the IMD, such as prenatal services.