Bipartisan Opioid Research Legislation Passes the House, Yet More Work Remains
July 23, 2019
The United States House of Representatives passed by voice vote on July 23, 2019 H.R. 3153, the Expanding Findings for Federal Opioid Research and Treatment (EFFORT) Act. The bill was introduced by Congresswoman Jennifer Wexton (D-VA-10) and had cosponsors from both parties, including Congressional Future Caucus members Reps. Derek Kilmer (D-WA-6), Haley Stevens (D-MI-11), and Anthony Gonzalez (R-OH-16).
The United States House of Representatives passed by voice vote on July 23, 2019 H.R. 3153, the Expanding Findings for Federal Opioid Research and Treatment (EFFORT) Act. The bill was introduced by Congresswoman Jennifer Wexton (D-VA-10) and had cosponsors from both parties, including Congressional Future Caucus members Reps. Derek Kilmer (D-WA-6), Haley Stevens (D-MI-11), and Anthony Gonzalez (R-OH-16). Since its passage in the House, the bill has subsequently been ordered to be reported out of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. The EFFORT Act finds that more research is needed on opioid addiction prevention and treatment, and therefore directs the Director of the National Science Foundation along with the Director of the National Institutes of Health to support merit-reviewed and competitively awarded research on the science of opioid addiction.
In a speech on the floor of the House about the bill, Rep. Jim Baird (R-IN-4), an original cosponsor, said, “this epidemic does not discriminate, and we must use evidence-based policy to ensure the health and well-being of current and future generations.” This underscores the post-partisan response to the national opioid epidemic that is emerging. Rep. Wexton echoed this sentiment of bipartisanship and research-oriented policy in her press release about the passage of her legislation, stating: “addiction is an illness, and if we hope to bring an end to this crisis, we need to support adequate scientific research and funding. This bipartisan bill is one step towards stopping the cycle of addiction and saving lives.”
Legislation to combat the opioid epidemic has been largely bipartisan on the federal stage. A pair of senators, Chris Coons (D-DE) and Cory Gardner (R-CO), published an op-ed in The Hill in December of 2019 calling the epidemic “one of the single greatest public health crises of the modern era” and demanding an “all-hands-on-deck approach” to solve it. The two senators have worked together on legislation to shore up the drug supply chain and ensure that the Drug Enforcement Agency has the resources it needs to keep communities safe. In 2015, the two members of Congress from New Hampshire, Rep. Ann Kuster (D-NH-2) and former Rep. Frank Guinta (R-NH-1) jointly formed the Bipartisan Task Force to Combat the Heroin Epidemic. The group, which has grown significantly and is now known as the Bipartisan Opioid Task Force, released in February 2020 their legislative agenda for the year, which includes wide-ranging legislation from prevention and treatment to law enforcement and criminal justice reform.
As national policymakers and Members of Congress continue to work to address the devastating opioid crisis, they must continue to prioritize human impact over political interest. Indeed, many will recognize the political upside in defending hard-hit communities and seeking to punish facilitators of the epidemic. However, these decision makers must prioritize the implementation of solutions and the charting of a path forward for those affected, instead of pursuing opportunistic half-measures that score political points. The opioid crisis reflects a generational crisis that will require a continued, post-partisan generational response to alleviate. Young lawmakers are the only ones with the credibility to move these actions forward.
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