Bipartisan opioid legislation heads to president’s desk

October 5, 2018
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HUNTINGTON — In an act of bipartisanship, Congress has sent a comprehensive opioid legislation package to desk of President Donald Trump.

The SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act is a combination of several smaller pieces of legislation sponsored by hundreds of lawmakers, including pieces sponsored by West Virginia’s delegation. The bill passed the House of Representatives 393 to 8 last week and the Senate 98-1 Wednesday.

A major aspect of the bill, as reported by the Washington Post, is the change to a decades-old arcane rule that prohibited Medicaid from covering patients with substance abuse disorders who were receiving treatment in a mental health facility with more than 16 beds. The bill lifts that rule to allow for 30 days of residential treatment coverage.

The bill also includes the Caring Recovery for Infants and Babies (CRIB) Act, which will allow more centers like Lily’s Place in Huntington open across the country with the ability to charge Medicaid.

Some other legislation included in the act includes:

• Reauthorizes and makes improvements to the State Targeted Opioid Response (STR) program to help states better fight the opioid epidemic, including updates to the formula.

• The Synthetics Trafficking & Overdose Prevention (STOP) Act, which will help prevent the shipment of synthetic opioids like fentanyl into the U.S. through the international mail system by imposing tough new requirements on the U.S. Postal Service and Customs and Border Protection.

• Resources for communities to start or expand programs for coordination of care and treatment after an overdose, such as the successful Quick Response Teams (QRTs) that have had such success in Huntington.

• Allows a wider array of medical professionals to prescribe medication-assisted treatment (MAT) and codifies the higher number of patients that can be served by an individual doctor. Also provides funding to educate medical professionals on prescribing MAT.

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said he worked to include language that

funds states with the highest overdose rates per capita, like West Virginia.

“This language more than tripled the amount of funding coming to our state for this coming year, and I will continue to fight to ensure West Virginia is getting our fair share of funding to fight this epidemic,” Manchin said.

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., said in a release the SUPPORT Act is a major step in the ongoing battle against opioids.

“Our state understands far too well how this crisis is tearing apart families and communities, but our experience has also helped inform efforts to fight back,” she said. “We have discovered what is working, what is not, and perhaps most importantly, that the ripple effects go far beyond those struggling with addiction. I worked hard to make sure that this legislation reflects many of those lessons.”

Congress has appropriated $8.5 billion this year for opioid-related programs, but there’s no guarantee of funding for subsequent years.

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