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Senate to vote on opioid crisis package this week

In an effort to fight the ongoing opioid epidemic, lawmakers in both Columbus and Washington, D.C., have been pushing dozens of bills that could impact prevention and treatment efforts in the Dayton region.

Both houses of Congress have worked in recent months to combine bills into bipartisan packages of legislation that include everything from interdiction efforts at the nation’s borders to limits on the amount of opioids doctors can prescribe to their patients.

RELATED: Can Dayton go from ‘overdose capital’ to a model for recovery?

Because the flurry of legislation is nearly impossible for any one person to follow, the Dayton Daily News as part of its initiative, The Path Forward, reviewed each piece of legislation to see how it might impact our community.

One of the bills, the U.S. Senate version of House Resolution 6 could be voted on as early as this week. The House version, also called the SUPPORT Act, passed June 22. It included several changes to Medicaid and Medicare as well as provisions to increase access to and research on alternative pain treatments; improve prevention, education and evidence-based treatment; create federal standards for sober living facilities; and increase data collection.

The Senate version includes provisions from several bills sponsored by Sens. Rob Portman and Sherrod Brown of Ohio. Among them:

  • The STOP Act: Portman is one of the authors of the Synthetics Trafficking & Overdose Prevention Act in the Senate. It has already passed in the House. It would require the U.S. Postal Service to share with Customs and Border Protection personnel advanced electronic data on 100 percent of packages entering the U.S. to help identify suspicious shipments. The goal is to stop deadly fentanyl from entering the country from China and Mexico.
  • The CRIB Act: Brown and Portman along with sponsors in five other states introduced this bill to allow Medicaid to cover health care services to infants suffering from neonatal abstinence syndrome outside of the hospital. Brigid’s Path in Kettering is one of only a handful of residential pediatric recovery centers in the country and could benefit from this legislation. Currently, Brigid’s Path cannot bill Medicaid for services to babies in withdrawal, thereby limiting how many families it can serve. “We need to get this legislation through the Senate soon, to support the most vulnerable victims of the opioid crisis, and make sure all babies and their caregivers can get care in a setting that meets their special needs,” Brown said.
  • The CARA 2.0 Act: This Portman-sponsored bill would increase the funding authorization levels for the programs enacted in 2016 under the CARA Act and put in place additional policy reforms, including limiting opioid prescriptions to three days.
  • The CARE Act: Brown introduced this bill that would combine existing job training and addiction recovery grant programs to create a pilot program to address workforce shortages exacerbated by the opioid crisis. Brown said the program will help employers fill openings and help those in recovery get back on their feet. The Path Forward recently featured several local programs that are helping connect people in recovery with jobs in Dayton.

Portman said he was encouraged that not a single senator from either political party voted against bringing the legislation to the Senate floor.

“This crisis affects every state in our country, and this legislation’s unanimous passage is an encouraging example of putting partisanship aside to achieve meaningful results for our constituents,” he said.

RELATED: New challenge for recovering addicts: Finding a job

The combined package will not allocate new money, lawmakers have said, but the last Congress passed two pieces of legislation that are currently providing many of the local resources for combating the opioid crisis. They are CARA (The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act) and the 21st Century Cures Act.

See the accompanying box for descriptions of those bills and other opioid-related legislation in Congress and in the Ohio General Assembly.

How to get help: An opioid addiction resource guide

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