House Republicans have scheduled votes this week on 18 bills aimed at addressing the scourge of opioid addiction that health experts and policy makers say has taken root across America.
The bills include measures intended to make it easier for doctors to treat patients addicted to opioids, as well as to give law enforcement officers greater authority to interdict drug trafficking. There are also measures that would offer greater protections for veterans and for children affected by the opioid epidemic, and that would require the federal government to conduct studies evaluating the nation’s capacity for treating opioid addiction.
Another measure requires a study of good Samaritan laws aimed at shielding from criminal or civil liability health care providers and law enforcement officials who help to treat opioid addicts with “overdose reversal” drugs.
The House bills are expected to be approved and then packaged together, at which point they would need to be reconciled with similar legislation adopted in the Senate.
Democrats have supported the effort by the Republican majorities in the House and Senate to combat the opioid epidemic, but they have also criticized Republicans for not attaching sufficient money to finance many of the programs called for in the legislation. Democrats have pushed for $600 million in emergency financing to support the anti-opioid provisions.
In a memo to reporters, a spokeswoman for the House speaker, Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, maintained that the legislative effort to combat the opioid epidemic was far more important than meetings scheduled at the Capitol this week between congressional Republicans and Donald J. Trump, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee.
“Thursday’s Ryan/Trump meeting is not the most important thing happening in D.C. this week,” the spokeswoman, AshLee Strong, wrote. She added, “House Republicans promised swift action to tackle the opioid crisis, and they are staying true to their word.”
By David M. Herszenhorn - The NY Times/May 11, 2016
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