Opioid bill awaits president’s signature

By:  Jesse Major
Source: Peninsula Daily News

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Legislation intended to combat the opioid epidemic has passed Congress and is awaiting the president’s signature to become law. 

The bipartisan Opioid Crisis Response Act was approved by both the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives last month. 

The final legislation included provisions introduced by U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Mountlake Terrace, who visited Port Angeles in March to learn how the opioid epidemic affects Port Angeles.

Cantwell and U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., introduced a bill in February to hold drug makers accountable for false advertising and negligent distribution practices that have fueled the opioid epidemic. 

Many of the provisions in that bill were included in the Opioid Crisis Response Act. 

U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor, said on Twitter that “Congress took a good step forward, but there’s more to do. It should also fund more mental health beds and make treatment more accessible, especially in rural areas.” 

The bill cracks down on illegal drug distribution by increasing civil penalties on manufacturers and distributors of opioids that fail to report suspicious orders for opioids or fail to maintain effective controls against diversion of opioids from $10,000 to $100,000. It also increases criminal penalties for failing to maintain effective controls against diversion of opioids from $250,000 to $500,000. 

The legislation also would increase funding and resources for opioid treatment. 

It provides permanent authority for physicians to provide medication-assisted treatment for up to 275 patients, expands the ability to use telehealth services to treat opioid use disorder and authorized $75 million for the Drug Court Program. 

It also supports new research and treatment alternatives.