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U.S. Senators pass opioid legislation

Photo by News Mississippi.

Mississippi’s U.S. Senators voted to pass legislation that would significantly ramp up the federal efforts to stop the trafficking of fentanyl and other various opioids while also working to strengthen programs to treat abuse and addiction.

The legislation includes the “Expanding Telehealth Response to Ensure Addiction Treatment (eTREAT) Act,” which Senator Wicker coauthored. This provision of the bill would promote the use of telemedicine to treat substance abuse by waiving the geographical restrictions that typically prevent Medicare reimbursement.

The “Opioid Crisis Response Act of 2018” would also:

  • Enact the STOP Act to stop illegal drugs at the border, including shipments of synthetic opioids through the mail;
  • Improve data sharing of prescription drug monitoring programs between states;
  • Support states in addressing substance use disorders;
  • Expand access to medication-assisted treatment; and
  • Spur the development of new non-addictive painkillers.

“Opioid abuse and overdoses are social and public safety crises.  Mississippi is affected as much as any other state in terms of criminal activity, burdens on health services, and the tragic toll on lives,” said U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith.  “This legislation is a strong response to stop the trafficking of fentanyl, heroin, and other opioids, while also addressing the need for better abuse prevention and treatment options.”

The bill was approved by a 99-1 vote and must now be reconciled with a similar House-passed bill before it can be sent to President Trump.

According to a report from the Mississippi Board of Pharmacy, the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics, and other agencies, in Mississippi, the majority of overdose deaths in 2017 were opioid-related. The report also assessed drug-related crime in the state, and there were almost 20,000 drug-related arrests last year alone.

“Drug overdose deaths are skyrocketing in America in large part because of synthetic opioids flowing into our country from overseas,” Wicker said. “Today the Senate has taken action that would help stop these drugs from entering our country through the mail while providing more resources to prevent and treat addiction. We are also looking to the future by encouraging the development of non-addictive opioid alternatives. Those suffering from chronic pain should get the treatment they need without other risks to their health.”

Overall, the Senate measure would help stop illegal drugs at the border, including provisions to require greater cooperation between the U.S Postal Service and customs inspectors to stop the shipment of synthetic opioids—the majority of which are produced in China.

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