State and national policymakers respond to opioid crisis

Since the mid-1990s, opioid abuse and addiction have proliferated in communities across Texas and the nation, burdening individuals, families, first responders, hospitals, and the child welfare and criminal justice systems. In October 2017, the president declared the opioid crisis a national public health emergency in the United States and this month signed H.R. 6, which includes various provisions to target the crisis.

H.R. 6, also known as the SUPPORT (Substance Use-Disorder Prevention that Promotes Opioid Recovery and Treatment) for Patients and Communities Act, includes several Medicare, Medicaid, and public health measures. The new law requires the U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) secretary to publish hospital guidelines on pain management and prevention strategies for opioid use disorder for Medicare patients and to conduct a pilot program to recruit and train treatment providers participating under certain state Medicaid programs. It authorizes grants to state and local agencies for public health laboratories to detect fentanyl, its analogues, and other synthetic opioids. The law also requires all shipments into the United States from overseas to include advanced electronic data specifying the sender and package contents, makes permanent a temporary authorization for physician assistants and nurse practitioners to prescribe certain addiction treatment medication, directs the HHS secretary to issue guidance on developing non-addictive treatments, and expands Medicaid coverage for infants with neonatal abstinence syndrome who receive care in residential pediatric recovery centers.

Both the Texas House of Representatives and the Texas Senate have been charged this interim with studying the impact of opioids on Texans. Committee hearings have focused on proposals to reduce opioid-related misuse, overdoses, and deaths, including establishing limits on first-time opioid prescriptions, enabling all pharmacies to dispense naloxone (a drug that reverses overdoses), and expanding access to addiction treatment.

For more on policy proposals to combat the opioid epidemic at the state level, see the recent House Research Organization focus report, Texas considers policy responses to opioid crisis.

By Alison Hern

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