By U.S. Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX)
Who hasn’t been touched by the opioid crisis in America? This swift and devastating epidemic has impacted every community in America and robbed countless people of their hopes and ambitions. Addiction is devastating to witness. It tears apart families and communities and leaves in its path of destruction a generation of children without parents.
This is a crisis that cuts across all divides in our society. In fact, more than three out of five drug overdoses in America involve opioids. The loss of so much potential for so many is hard to comprehend, but House Republicans are fighting with every tool in their arsenal to combat the opioid crisis.
Recently the Ways and Means Committee approved a comprehensive package of bills led by Rep. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.), who chairs the Subcommittee on Health, aimed at beating back the opioid crisis. Our bipartisan bills will put in place many common-sense measures to reduce unnecessary prescribing of opioids and to help those addicted, including our nation’s seniors.
That means tackling the issues fueling the crisis by improving education and best practices for patients, prescribers, and insurers to prevent and combat the negative effects of opioids. All too often we hear stories of loved ones exposed to opioids-and then quickly addicted-from routine surgeries that may not have required opioid treatment in the first place. This can be prevented.
The “Providing Reliable Options for Patients and Educational Resources Act,” sponsored by Rep. Erik Paulsen (R-Minn.) will help do that by informing patients about all available treatment options including non-opioid treatments. It’s important for patients to know the risks before taking a medication and to be able to explore alternative methods of care.
In addition to better education, we must ensure there is proper care when opioids are prescribed and that patients know how to dispose controlled substances after they no longer take the medication. This bill also makes clear to hospitals the negative effects of opioids and will direct the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to revise their hospital quality survey to inform patients about the risks of opioids and the availability of non-opioid pain management treatments.
Because this is a crisis found across our nation, the “Combatting Opioid Abuse for Care in Hospitals Act,” sponsored by Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.) will require CMS to share best practices and opioid abuse prevention tools with hospitals. This is not an issue faced by only one segment of our county, but by all.
As part of the effort, the committee crafted policies that would expand access to addiction treatments and both opioid and non-opioid based pain management in the Medicare program.
Lastly, the committee approved legislation that would cut off the flow of opioids from other countries by clamping down on the transport of synthetic opioids in the international mail system. The “Securing the International Mail Against Opioids Act of 2018,” authored by Rep. Mike Bishop (R-Mich.) and co-led by Rep. John Faso (R-N.Y.) would secure international mail, which is all too often an easy route for smuggling dangerous synthetic opioids like fentanyl into the United States. It does this in part by raising the standards of the Post Office up to the standards of private carriers when they investigate suspicious packages.
We must ensure our communities and families are able to overcome this crisis, and this package of bills will make a significant dent in preventing the over-prescription of opioids, increasing education of patients and prescribers, and increasing access to treatment for patients who are suffering. While we still have a long way to go, this legislation-part of a broader Republican package of bills that the House will vote on this month takes meaningful strides to help millions of Americans recapture their lost hopes and dreams.