House overwhelmingly passes final opioids package

In a rare bipartisan moment, the House on Friday passed the final version of a large package that aims to co...

Posted: Sep 29, 2018 4:39 AM
Updated: Sep 29, 2018 4:39 AM

In a rare bipartisan moment, the House on Friday passed the final version of a large package that aims to combat the opioid epidemic.

The vote was 393-8.

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Both chambers passed initial versions in recent months and reached an agreement on a final bill this week. It next heads to the Senate for final passage -- where it's expected to pass -- then to the President Donald Trump's desk for his signature.

The vote took place during the chamber's final vote series before House members left town to campaign in their districts until after the midterm elections.

The crisis is a devastating problem that has been a top priority for most lawmakers due to the widespread havoc it's wreaking across the nation. In 2016, more than 63,600 people died from an overdose in the United States -- and 42,249 of those deaths involved an opioid, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Provisions in the final package touch on a wide range of issues related to the crisis, such as expanding access to treatment and recovery services, coming up with opioid alternatives for pain treatment, intercepting illegal opioids at mail facilities and combating use of fentanyl.

The legislation includes more than 70 provisions based on bills by members of both the House and Senate, who've been working on the issue for more than a year.

It also comes after Congress passed a massive spending bill in March that included $4 billion to address the crisis. Included in another spending bill that the President is expected to sign this weekend is $6.7 billion for programs that fight, treat, and stop substance abuse.

"Seldom can we say that federal legislation will actually save lives, but we know this bipartisan package will do just that by improving treatment for those battling addiction, and slowing the flow of illegal, deadly synthetic drugs into America," said Oregon Republican Rep. Greg Walden, chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee.

The top Democrat on the committee, Rep. Frank Pallone, described the legislation as a "critical step" in the ongoing battle to address the issue.

"While this legislation will not solve every problem, I do believe it includes important policies that will help turn the tide of this tragic opioid epidemic," he said on the House floor. "It will also improve treatment options for those battling other substance use disorders."

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