The US House of Representatives is set to vote this week on a slate of legislative measures focused on addressing the country's opioid abuse epidemic.
House Republicans introduced 18 bills for deliberation, which should have bipartisan support. Three of the bills passed Tuesday with only one dissenting vote, and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan said he expects the rest to be approved in the coming days.
The House Rules Committee is at work inspecting amendments to the rest of the proposed legislation, which, when approved, will be grouped into a final package along with the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA). Passed in March by the Senate, CARA authorizes grants to be awarded for efforts aimed at preventing opioid abuse, treating addiction, supporting law enforcement, and incentivizing state initiatives related to abuse response.
After the House and Senate combine the opioid legislation, the package will be sent to President Obama for final approval.
The legislative effort comes as the opioid epidemic continues to affect individuals, families, and communities nationwide. Despite the presence of some recovery and counseling services to combat the issue, many areas still need more help to more effectively deal with the drug problem.
The new set of proposed laws in the House includes measures calling for further studies to examine the country’s response to the opioid crisis, as well as support for doctors’ treatment of abusers and law enforcement’s efforts to combat drug trafficking.
As The Christian Science Monitor reported, the problem isn't simply one being dealt with by adults. It's showing up in high schools and middle schools, among of "Generation Heroin – youths who have grown up among epidemic use of opioids in some corners of America and have seen their own drug overdose rates more than triple in 17 states since 2001.
In Rhode Island, for example, all middle schools must be stocked with naloxone, a drug that can reverse potentially fatal problems related to overdoses. A survey of 81 middle school nurses found that 43 percent said students were abusing opioids, the Associated Press reports. Fifteen of the nurses had to call 911 at least once because of such drugs.
While both sides of the aisle are in support of the bid to fight the opioid scourge, Democrats say that Republicans have not attached sufficient funding to pay for the initiatives provided for in the legislation and are working to attach $600 million in emergency financing, The New York Times reports.
The House remains intent on passing the proposed laws despite other events taking place this week in Washington, including a visit by Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump, the Times reports.
“Thursday’s Ryan/Trump meeting is not the most important thing happening in DC this week,” AshLee Strong, a spokeswoman for Mr. Ryan, wrote in a memo.
“House Republicans promised swift action to tackle the opioid crisis, and they are staying true to their word,” she added.