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The cliff notes version of the new opioid crisis bill President Trump signed yesterday

President Donald Trump on Wednesday signed a package of bills to confront the nation’s opioid epidemic, following bipartisan approval for the measures in the House and Senate. The new bill, named the Support for Patients and Communities Act, is a breakthrough that will boost access to addiction treatment and many other intervention actions that can help slow down the crisis. From law enforcement efforts against illicit drugs to combating the overprescription of opioids.

Let’s be clear though, the new bill will not necessarily provide more funding for treatment and the like. Even though it authorizes some relatively small grant programs, the actual funding for those will be decided later on by Congress’s appropriations process.

What the Support for Patients and Communities Act does

For a full breakdown of the Support for Patients and Communities Act, you can read the full text or a section-by-section summary. But here are some of the major policy changes in the law:

  • Reauthorizes funding from the Cures Act, which put $500 million a year toward the opioid crisis, and makes tweaks to hopefully give states more flexibility in using the funding.
  • Creates a grant program for “Comprehensive Opioid Recovery Centers,” which will attempt to serve the addiction treatment and recovery needs of their communities (in part by using what’s known as an ECHO model).
  • Lifts restrictions on medications for opioid addiction, allowing more types of health care practitioners to prescribe the drugs.
  • Expands an existing program that attempts to get more first responders, such as police and firefighters, to carry and use naloxone, a medication that reverses opioid overdoses.
  • Allows federal agencies to pursue more research projects related to addiction and pain.
  • Makes several changes to Medicare and Medicaid to attempt to limit the overprescription of opioid painkillers within the programs and expand access to addiction treatment, including lifting some of the current restrictions that make it harder for Medicare and Medicaid to pay for addiction treatment.
  • Advances new initiatives to educate and raise awareness about proper pain treatment among health care providers.
  • Attempts to improve coordination between different federal agencies to stop illicit drugs like fentanyl at the border, and gives agencies more tools to improve detection and testing at border checks.
  • Increases penalties for drug manufacturers and distributors related to the overprescribing of opioids.

There is A LOT more in the bill. But this gives you a cliff notes version as to what it will do and how it is attempting to help stall the epidemic. It also gives you an idea of how bad the crisis has gotten. In a congress where it seems like little can be agreed on, the opioid epidemic and the recent overdose death numbers have brought together a bipartisan congress to get some work done on the issue. Let’s hope this will lead to more.

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