U.S. Sen. Cassidy introduces two bills addressing opioid epidemic

Halen Doughty
Sen. Bill Cassidy

U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy, M.D., has introduced two different pieces of legislation aimed at curbing the growing opioid epidemic. Cassidy is a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee (HELP).

One measure, the Protection from Overprescribing Act, provides authorities with the information they need to identify and prevent cases of opioid overprescription.

“In Louisiana, there is about one opioid prescription for every person. I and other physicians took an oath to first, do no harm. Some doctors are selling these prescriptions for profit. This is doing harm and it must be stopped,” said Cassidy. “This legislation gives law enforcement the information they need to identify bad actors and reduce the number of opioids on our streets.”

The bill incentives states to provide prescription drug monitoring information into law enforcement agencies and prescriber licensing boards. The goal is to better identify and cut down on hazardous prescribing habits. The measure requires the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to consider a state's compliance when awarding grants for Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs.

Cassidy also worked with other members of Congress to introduce the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) 2.0. The bipartisan legislation would increase the funding authorization levels for CARA programs enacted in 2016 and put in place additional reforms to combat the opioid epidemic.

CARA was originally passed in 2016 with bipartisan support. The law was designed to ensure that federal resources are devoted to evidence-based education, treatment and recovery programs. CARA 2.0 builds on that by increasing the funding by $1 billion while also establishing new policy reforms to strengthen the federal response to this crisis.

“We must keep up the fight against the opioid crisis in Louisiana to support healthier families and safer communities,” said Cassidy. “This legislation builds on our efforts to help those struggling with addiction recover and return to wholeness. I’m glad the Protection from Overprescribing Act is included in this bill, so law enforcement gets the information they need to identify providers who are overprescribing and fueling this crisis.”

The CARA 2.0 policy reforms include requiring physicians and pharmacists to use their state prescription drug monitoring programs when prescribing or dispensing opioids and increasing penalties for drug manufacturers that fail to report suspicious orders for opioids or fail to maintain effective controls against diversion of the drugs. It also creates a national standard for recovery residence to ensure quality housing for individuals in long-term recovery, and it imposes a three-day limit on initial opioid prescriptions for acute pain. There are exceptions for chronic pain and pain for other ongoing illnesses.

The increased funded provided by CARA 2.0 includes $10 million to fund a National Education Campaign on the dangers of prescription opioid misuse, a $5 million increase over the original CARA. The bill also provides funding to expand evidence-based medication-assisted treatment and first responder training and access to naloxone. It provides funding for building a national infrastructure for recovery support services and expands Veterans Treatment Courts, as well as expanding treatment for pregnant and postpartum women. CARA 2.0 offers funding for states to develop and Infant Plan of Safe Care to report, track, and assist newborns exposed to substances and their families. Finally, it establishes a National Youth Recovery Initiative to develop, support, and maintain youth recovery support services.

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