Durbin And Bustos Highlight Key Provisions In Fight Against Opioid Epidemic

Package includes prevention and treatment measures on DEA quotas, infant opioid dependence, telemedicine and child trauma

ROCK ISLAND – U.S. Senator Dick Durbin and U.S. Representative Cheri Bustos today discussed their work to address the opioid epidemic. The Senate passed an opioid package on Monday and the House passed similar legislation in June. These bills both include critical legislative provisions that Senator Durbin and Congresswoman Bustos fought to include to prevent addiction, help survivors, and save lives. The measures will now be negotiated to reconcile differences between the House and Senate-passed bills, with the aim of being signed into law in the next several weeks.

“Every zip code in Illinois and across the nation is struggling to combat the opioid epidemic—I’m glad we are finally doing something to tackle this crisis and give those on the front lines the tools and resources they need to help save lives,” Durbin said. “This bipartisan bill includes several important initiatives that I’ve authored and supported – from strengthening the DEA’s ability to limit the supply of painkillers allowed to be sold on the market, addressing trauma that can lead to future drug abuse and violence, supporting research into non-addictive pain medication, and creating new grant programs that provide naloxone for first responders.  This legislation is an important step in addressing the aspects of this crisis, and we should waste no time getting it on the President’s desk for signature. ”

“The opioid epidemic has claimed the lives of too many across our nation, and the disproportionate toll it has taken on rural communities and small towns in Illinois is heartbreaking,” said Congresswoman Bustos. “We need to work together to solve this problem which is why I’m proud to have reached across the aisle to include two important provisions in this bill. Specifically, my legislation will improve the way telemedicine is being implemented to help those who are struggling with addiction in rural communities and give babies born addicted to opioids a better shot at life. Senator Durbin has been a tremendous partner in this effort and I want to thank him for all of his work in delivering a strong bill in the Senate.”

Every day, more than 115 Americans die from an opioid overdose.  In the past three years, there has been a 53 percent spike in drug overdose deaths in Illinois, with more than 2,400 lives lost in 2016.

 Durbin Provisions:

The legislative package includes Durbin’s Opioid Quota Reform Act, which he introduced with Senators John Kennedy (R-LA), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), and Chuck Grassley (R-IA).  The legislation will enhance the DEA’s existing opioid quota-setting authority by allowing the DEA to consider addiction, overdose, and public health effects when setting opioid production quota levels. 

The package also includes several key provisions from Durbin's Trauma Informed Care for Children and Families Act, which he introduced with Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), designed to support children who have been exposed to any Adverse Childhood Experience (“ACE,”) such as violence or parental drug addiction), which can lead to future drug use as a way to cope. Individuals with multiple ACEs are ten times more likely to misuse illicit narcotics.  Because of this link, the Senate opioid package includes major reforms to better identify and support children who have experienced trauma by:

  • Creating a federal task force to coordinate federal efforts, establish a national strategy, and recommend best practices for identify, referring, and supporting children that have experienced trauma
  • Promoting trauma-informed care in dozens of additional federal grant programs
  • Creating a mental health in schools pilot program to integrate services, and increase student access to care
  • Investing in the mental health workforce by expanding the National Health Service Corps loan repayment program, and enhancing masters-level graduate school education for behavioral health and social work professionals
  • The Senate package includes several other key provisions that Durbin has supported, including supporting research into non-addictive pain medication, improving screening at the border and in mail packages for fentanyl, and creating several new grant programs that support naloxone for first responders, expanded treatment and recovery, and care for mothers and babies born with drug withdrawal.

On Tuesday, Durbin also introduced a bipartisan bill to lift the Medicaid Institutions for Mental Disease (IMD) Exclusion.  The IMD Exclusion is an arcane, decades-old policy that prohibits states from using federal Medicaid dollars to pay for treatment at residential mental health or substance abuse facilities with more than 16 beds.  Durbin has worked for years to expand access to treatment by addressing this policy, and aims to include this legislation in a final conference package with the House. 

Bustos Provisions: 

Included in the package is the Special Registration for Telemedicine Clarification Act, which is designed to increase access to treatment for those suffering from opioids and other addictions. Specifically, this legislation instructs the Attorney General to take the necessary steps to allow for the prescription of medication-assisted treatment and other controlled substances via telemedicine. Physicians and health care providers will need to undergo special registration in order to participate in this program.

Also included was the Preventing NAS and Protecting Babies Act, which would improve treatment options for babies born with dependence on heroin or other opioids due to their mother’s use while pregnant. As a result, the Department of Health and Human Services will be required to submit a strategy to Congress to implement recommendations from a report, which related to parental opioid use and neonatal abstinence syndrome.