Kuster Statement on House Passage of Comprehensive Opioid Legislation Including Critical New Hampshire Provisions
(Washington, DC) –Congresswoman Annie Kuster (NH-02), the founder and co-chair of the Bipartisan Heroin and Opioid Task Force, released the following statement on the passage of bipartisan comprehensive opioid legislation, the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act (H.R. 6). The legislation is a result of reconciliation between the House and Senate versions of the bill, which were passed earlier this year. Kuster successfully fought to include in the House version and the final bill a key provision from her legislation, the STOP Fentanyl Deaths Act, which will invest $15 million a year into public health laboratories that provide crucial surveillance of the movement and usage of dangerous drugs such as synthetic opioids. Kuster pushed for the inclusions of provisions to support efforts in New Hampshire to tackle the opioid epidemic, including expanding the ability of physician assistants and nurse practitioners to provide medication-assisted treatment (MAT). The legislation also reauthorizes the Office of National Drug Control Policy, which is a key partner in coordinating the response to the opioid epidemic at the federal, state, and local level.
“I’m encouraged that we’ve been able to come together to advance this legislation that will support efforts on the frontlines to tackle the opioid epidemic in New Hampshire and across the country,” said Kuster. “This bill takes steps to address synthetic opioids, which have been a driver of this crisis in our state, and importantly will expand the availability of medication-assisted treatment and authorize physician assistants and nurse practitioners to provide buprenorphine, which is critical for our rural communities. I look forward to continuing to bring together Republicans and Democrats on the Bipartisan Heroin and Opioid Task Force to address this crisis that is impacting communities nationwide.”
The Support for Patients and Communities Act (H.R. 6) includes the following:
STOP Fentanyl Deaths Act
Introduced by Kuster, this bill invests $15 million a year into the nation’s public health laboratories, which provide crucial surveillance of the movement and usage of dangerous drugs, such as synthetic opioids, which are scientifically challenging to detect.
Combating Opioid Abuse for Care in Hospitals (COACH) Act
Led by Rep. Kuster and Rep Curbelo (FL-26), this bill improves pain management and responsible opioid use in our nation’s hospitals by providing first-ever Medicare guidelines on pain management and opioid use disorder prevention, review of quality measures to ensure perverse incentives are eliminated, and improvements on the use of opioids to treat post-surgical acute pain.
Expands Access of Medication-Assisted Treatment
The bill would significantly improve the availability of medication-assisted treatment (MAT) by allowing physicians to treat up to 275 patients, permanently authorize physician assistants and nurse practitioners to provide buprenorphine and allow all Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs) to provide MAT. Kuster led a bipartisan, bicameral letter to include these provisions within the final package. Kuster has long supported these provisions through her cosponsor of Rep. Paul Tonko’s Addiction Treatment Access and Improvement Act, a bill endorsed by the Bipartisan Heroin and Opioids Task Force.
Expands use of Medicaid Funds for Treatment
The bill includes a significant change to Medicaid, now allowing states to use Medicaid to pay for short-term treatment in facilities containing more than 16 beds. Known as the Medicaid IMD Exclusion, this provision is similar to the Road to Recovery Act co-introduced with Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick and endorsed by the Bipartisan Heroin and Opioids Task Force.
Treatment for Babies Impacted by the Opioid Epidemic
The bill includes the Caring Recovery for Infants and Babies (CRIB) Act, which would create residential pediatric care centers within Medicaid to treat babies with neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS). NAS has been a growing concern in New Hampshire and the nation, and the CRIB Act will help States address this growing concern. Kuster is a cosponsor and this bill was endorsed by the Bipartisan Heroin and Opioids Task Force.
Improving Prescribing Practices and Monitoring
The bill includes Jessie’s Law, a bill intended to help doctors access a consenting patient’s prior history of addiction to make better clinical decisions when providing treatment and other healthcare. Kuster is a cosponsor of Jessie’s Law and the bill was endorsed by the Bipartisan Heroin and Opioids Task Force.
The bill includes the Every Prescription Conveyed Securely Act, which would require all Medicare Part D prescriptions to be transmitted electronically. Requiring “e-prescribing” can help address doctor shopping, forged prescriptions, and theft. It would also help CMS better understand prescribing patterns, which can improve public health responses. Kuster is a cosponsor and this bill was endorsed by the Bipartisan Heroin and Opioids Task Force.
Tackling Synthetic Opioids
The bill includes the Synthetic Drug Awareness Act, which would require a landmark study on the public health effects of the rise in synthetic drug use, like fentanyl, among adolescents. This provision was supported by Kuster through her cosponsor and it was endorsed by the Bipartisan Heroin and Opioids Task Force.
The bill includes the Synthetics Trafficking and Overdose Prevention (STOP) Act to help control the flow of illicit, synthetic opioids like fentanyl into the United States from countries like China. Supported by Kuster, the bill would empower the U.S. Postal Service, Customs officials, and federal law enforcement efforts to stymie the tide of highly potent and deadly synthetic drugs. Due to the provisions of the Task Force supported law, the INTERDICT Act, federal officials will have the tools necessary to achieve the goals of this bill.
Reauthorizing the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP)
The bill includes reauthorization of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), which operates two crucial programs in the battle to quell the opioid epidemic: High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas program and the Drug-Free Communities program. Kuster led letters to stop the Administration’s desire to cut ONDCP by over 90 percent, and restored millions in funding to the program in the FY18 Omnibus Appropriations bill.
Creating a Loan Repayment Program in Support of Substance Use Disorder Treatment Jobs
The bill includes crucial workforce development provisions from the Substance Use Disorder Workforce Loan Repayment Act supported by Kuster. This bill would create a loan repayment program in support of substance use disorder treatment jobs. This program would target states with the highest shortages and highest overdose mortality rates.