4 things to know about the Senate opioid bill

The Senate will likely pass a comprehensive bill addressing the opioid crisis within the next few weeks, according to STAT.

Here are four things to know about the bill:

1. The legislation contains provisions to expand access to buprenorphine, establish a stricter screening process for fentanyl illegally imported by mail and improve access to addiction treatment via telelmedicine, according to STAT, which obtained a copy of the bill. The legislation would also encourage better disposal of unused opioids and provide funding to train providers on how to screen for and treat substance use disorders.

2. Like the House's version of the bill, which passed in June, these efforts do little to make counseling and medication a norm for addiction treatment in the U.S.

"Overdose rates continue to rise, and our response is still falling short given the mammoth size of the problem," Andrew Kessler, founder of Slingshot Solutions, a behavioral health consulting group, told STAT. "We are in the early phases of our response to this epidemic, and I can only hope that this bill is the first of many we can pass."

3. Before voting on the bill, lawmakers must decide whether to repeal the IMD exclusion, which is a regulation that prevents addiction treatment facilities with more than 16 inpatient beds from receiving Medicaid dollars. The House bill repeals this provision, but only for facilities treating opioid use disorder and cocaine use disorder.

4. Another unresolved policy is whether medical providers should have more access to patients' history of substance use disorders. The House bill removes a stipulation that this medical history can only be release with patient consent. The Senate bill features a softer version of the change, which would spur HHS to develop best practices for displaying information on past substance use.

"Every Republican senator has approved moving the bill to the floor," Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., told STAT. "As soon as both parties agree, we can have a roll call vote next week. When we do that, it'll get virtually unanimous support, and then we’ll work with the House and put the bills together."

More articles on opioids: 

Drug companies race to make opioid alternatives: 4 things to know

Michigan Medicine agrees to $4.3M settlement over drug diversion case

FDA to encourage development of nonopioid pain therapies

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