Last week was a busy week for the federal government as both Congress and the Administration once again contemplated the opioid crisis. We heard President Trump make a statement about an opioid package with details released potentially later this week. In Congress, the House will be marking up 25 new opioid bills, and in the Senate, a newer version of the CARA bill, first passed in 2016, is being developed among other bills. With many efforts underway simultaneously, the question is can the government bring these efforts together to form one coordinated and integrated approach that will maximize the funding put forth? And, if they can do it, how will they fund it?
You may recall that for the last several months the government has been functioning under a Congressional Resolution (CR) which keeps spending at status quo. The most recent CR contained a provision allowing for 6 billion dollars to combat the opioid epidemic, an allocation not a mandate. However, the CR runs out Friday, March 23rd at midnight so Congress must pass a budget bill (another CR or omnibus), or the government will shut down. All indications point to Congress passing what is called an omnibus spending bill which is a bill that takes all 11 spending bills required to create a budget and wraps them up into a massive bill that passes as a package. This bill will designate the opioid money showing us Congress’ priorities and approach to the crisis.
So what are the Administration and Congress planning? President Trump is asking for a review of various health care privacy laws, action regarding involuntary mental health treatment and perhaps the most controversial, how the court system should handle convicted drug dealers. As for the House and Senate, both chambers are working on separate pieces of the epidemic including physician’s practices, pharmaceutical practices, production, assisting first responders and the removal of barriers to long-term in-patient treatment. Details have not been made public, so it is hard to assess each chamber’s package.
The challenge is real. It is up to Congress to juggle the needs of those individuals in crisis, the families that surround them, the organizations attempting to meet their needs, and the states ability to allocate resources to the various aspects of the crisis.
All eyes are on Friday.