WASHINGTON – The Senate today passed major bipartisan legislation to combat the deadly opioid epidemic in New Hampshire and across the country. The legislation, the Substance Use Disorder Prevention that Promotes Opioid Recovery and Treatment for Patients and Communities Act (SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act), includes key New Hampshire priorities that Senator Hassan fought to include in order to strengthen prevention, treatment, recovery, and law enforcement efforts. This bipartisan legislation has passed the U.S. House and now heads to the President’s desk for signature.
“The bipartisan SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act will help save lives and strengthen our efforts to combat the deadly opioid crisis that is ravaging our communities,” said Senator Hassan, who helped develop the legislation as a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee. “This bipartisan legislation gives communities and families the support that they need and have called for. However this fight is far from over. The minute that the President signs this legislation into law, we must begin working on the next bill to help strengthen treatment, prevention, recovery, and law enforcement efforts. The urgency of this crisis demands nothing less.”
The bipartisan legislation includes a number of measures that Senator Hassan either authored or cosponsored to help turn the tide of this epidemic and save lives, including ensuring that states hardest-hit by the epidemic like New Hampshire receive their fair share of resources; establishing comprehensive recovery centers for those struggling with addiction; expanding access to medication-assisted treatment; giving nurse practitioners and physician assistants permanent authority to prescribe medication-assisted treatment; expanding medication-assisted treatment prescribing authority to additional advance practice registered nurses; improving recovery housing opportunities; supporting law enforcement in their efforts to curb the shipment of deadly fentanyl into the United States from other countries through the postal service; crack down on bad actors in the pharmaceutical industry; and more.
See below for more on the New Hampshire priorities that Senator Hassan fought to include in the bipartisan bill:
· Reauthorizes and improves state targeted response grants to ensure that states hardest hit by the opioid crisis with small populations and high mortality rates continue to get the resources they need.
o Earlier this year, Senator Hassan announced a significant increase in opioid treatment funding for New Hampshire following her efforts during the budget negotiations process to secure additional funding and change the funding formula to prioritize hardest-hit states
· Expands existing centers to serve as “Comprehensive Opioid Recovery Centers,” through the bipartisan Comprehensive Opioid Recovery Centers Act, authored by Senator Hassan and introduced with Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV). The centers would provide a full range of treatment and recovery services, including medication-assisted treatment, counseling, recovery housing, job training and support reintegrating into the workforce, community-based and peer recovery support services, and more.
· Trains more new doctors to prescribe medication-assisted treatment. The bill contains the bipartisan Enhancing Access to Addiction Treatment Act, authored by Senator Hassan and introduced with Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), to support medical schools and residency programs in training students and residents in addiction medicine. The legislation would streamline the process for getting a waiver to prescribe medication-assisted treatment to ensure that students or residents who receive training can apply to prescribe medication-assisted treatment as soon as they graduate medical school, get licensed to practice medicine, and get a DEA number – the same time they are allowed to start prescribing opioids.
· Increases the number of patients that doctors can treat with life-saving medication-assisted treatment and gives nurse practitioners and physician assistants permanent authority to prescribe medication-assisted treatment. The bill contains a bipartisan amendment co-led by Senator Hassan in the HELP Committee that codifies an increase in the number of patients that qualified physicians can treat with life-saving medication-assisted treatment to 275 patients. The legislation also makes permanent the ability of nurse practitioners and physician assistants to prescribe the treatment, and also expands prescribing authority for other advance practice registered nurses.
· Expands Access to Substance Misuse Treatment by expanding Medicaid coverage to pay for treatment at more residential treatment facilities. The measure in the bill is similar to legislation that Senator Hassan cosponsored, and it modifies Medicaid policy by expanding Medicaid coverage for treatment at larger substance misuse treatment facilities for up to 30 consecutive days.
· Provides law enforcement on the front lines with more tools to:
o Crack down on bad actors in the pharmaceutical industry by strengthening the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) system for addressing suspicious orders of opioid-based prescription drugs from drug distributors and increasing penalties for bad actors in the pharmaceutical industry that fail to report suspicious orders to the DEA. Senator Hassan introduced the Preventing Drug Diversion Act.
o Curb the shipment of deadly fentanyl and other synthetic drugs being sent through the mail to drug traffickers here in the United States through the bipartisan Synthetics Trafficking & Overdose Prevention (STOP) Act Senator Hassan introduced with Senator Rob Portman (R-OH).
· Addresses a number of key priorities that were also focuses of the bipartisan Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery (CARA) 2.0 Act that Senator Hassan joined a number of her colleagues in introducing:
o Expands a first responder training program and helps ensure that first responders are safe when they respond to overdoses, a priority Senator Hassan has heard about directly from New Hampshire first responders and public safety officials.
o Directs the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to develop best practices on recovery housing, a key New Hampshire priority.
· Works to address opioid treatment workforce shortage with a provision similar to bipartisan legislation Senator Hassan cosponsored to provide loan repayment to behavioral health providers practicing in areas with provider shortages.
· Reauthorizes the Office of National Drug Control Policy, which helps coordinate policy across the federal government and administers grant funding - including the Drug Free Communities and High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area programs - that are critical to efforts to combat the heroin, fentanyl, and opioid crisis in New Hampshire.
o Senator Hassan has been a vocal opponent of President Trump’s proposal to effectively eliminate the ONDCP, and introduced legislation to reauthorize it.
· Provides the National Institutes of Health (NIH) with more flexible authority to conduct innovative research to increase scientific understanding and lead to ways to prevent, treat, diagnose and cure disease, including research that is urgently required to respond to public health threats such as the opioid crisis. Senator Hassan joined in introducing the Bipartisan Advancing Cutting-Edge (ACE) Research Act.
· Addresses the problem of unused prescription drugs when a patient is receiving hospice care at home by permitting hospice staff to dispose of controlled substances when a patient dies or a medication expires through provisions introduced by Senator Hassan and others in the bipartisan Safe Disposal of Unused Medication Act.