The House on Friday passed—with Rep. Chris Smith’s strong support—a legislative package that provides further reforms to help combat the opioid crisis by improving and expanding access to treatment and recovery services, supporting law enforcement, and bolstering our efforts to fight deadly illicit synthetic drugs like fentanyl.
“Every single Congressional district in America has felt the scourge of the opioid epidemic,” Smith said. “The introduction of synthetic opioids like fentanyl are driving an even higher increase in overdose deaths—recently I chaired a hearing on the illegal import of fentanyl produced in China and the danger this poses to Americans. The Ocean County, NJ Prosecutor Joseph Coronato, from my district, has said that fentanyl has created a ‘synthetic storm’ that is ‘devastating.’”
“This legislation provides an aggressive and comprehensive federal response to this epidemic.”
The House on Friday passed H. Res. 1099, a House Amendment to the Senate Amendment to H.R. 6, the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act, which was a package of multiple bills targeting the opioid epidemic that passed the House in June.
Some of the key provisions advanced in the legislative package will:
- Connect and compile various resources on the opioid crisis at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)
- Increase grants for medical providers treating opioid abuse
- Educate professionals working with children on how to recognize and treat child trauma from opioid abuse by adults
- Better facilitate access to treatment for veterans struggling with opioid addiction
- Increase the number of female peer counselors for female veterans who are leaving or who have just left military service
- Confront the rising cases of HIV, hepatitis C and other infections stemming from drug-use, as part of Rep. Leonard Lance’s (R-NJ) Eliminating Opioid-Related Infectious Diseases Act
On Wednesday, Smith also voted for a spending package that included robust funding of efforts to fight and treat the opioid epidemic.
In addition to increasing funding of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) by $2 billion, which will support critical research of the opioid epidemic, the FY 2019 Labor, HHS, Education Appropriations Bill that passed the House on Wednesday also included $6.7 billion for the opioid epidemic for substance abuse treatment and mental health services, among other programs.
The $6.7 billion included funding for activities authorized under the 21st Century Cures Act—which Smith supported—and provided increases for State opioid response grants and criminal justice programs such as drug courts.
“We need robust federal funding of a comprehensive effort to combat this epidemic, and that includes treatment and prevention programs for addicts and enforcement of laws against traffickers—and that is what this legislation provides,” Smith who is also a member of the Congressional Addiction Treatment and Recovery Caucus, said.
“We must look at this as a disease. Offer programs and assistance to those who need help, and go after those who are marketing and selling fentanyl.”
In New Jersey in 2016, there were 1,584 deaths from overdoses of opioids including heroin, prescription opioid painkillers, fentanyl, and synthetic opioids. New Jersey has one of the highest opioid overdose death rates in the nation for individuals age 35 and younger.