As a flurry of literally dozens of opioid-related bills make their way through various stages of the federal legislative process, Ohio is still well represented in those efforts despite its senators already having several measures they authored or sponsored pass this year.
Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), as well as Rep. Bob Latta (R-Ohio), continue to work for their constituents across party lines.
Ohio leads the nation in drug overdoses per capita, with more than 4,000 overdose deaths in 2016, the most recent year for which data is available, according to the Columbus Dispatch.
Portman and Brown combo bill passes in committee
Portman is fresh off passage of his STOP (Synthetics Trafficking and Overdose Prevention) Act, which requires the U.S. Postal Service to receive digital information on international packages as private delivery services do, to better be able to identify packages from China and Mexico containing deadly fentanyl.
Now, he’s working with Brown, who himself authored recent legislation to further fund border agent and customs efforts to curb the flow of drugs into the country, on the Caring Recovery for Infants and Babies (CRIB) Act.
The CRIB Act would aid newborns recovering from addiction to access specialized care in more newborn-friendly environments by recognizing residential pediatric recovery facilities as providers under Medicaid. According to Portman’s office, the bill would cost nothing to taxpayers.
“The Ohio Department of Health estimates that about 84 infants are being treated for drug withdrawal in Ohio hospitals every day,” Portman said. “We must ensure women who are pregnant have access to care and treatment for a substance use disorder.”
In Ohio, incidences of newborn addictions have increased six-fold between 2004-2011, from 14 cases per 10,000 live births in 2004 to 88 cases per 10,000 live births in 2011, according to Portman’s office.
The bill passed in the Senate Finance Committee Tuesday.
“The CRIB Act will provide another opportunity to ensure babies are given the care they need to thrive and I am pleased the Finance Committee has approved this bill. I urge my colleagues to support this legislation when it comes to the Senate floor.”
Brown working for transparency
Brown’s latest effort, the Fighting the Opioid Epidemic with Sunshine Act, would require drug companies and medical device makers to publicly disclose payments made to nurse practitioners and physicians assistants in the same way as they do for those made to doctors and academic entities.
That bill also passed in the Senate Finance Committee Tuesday.
“Eleven Ohioans will die today of an opioid overdose and Congress must be doing everything in our power to fight this epidemic on all fronts,” Brown said. “From making sure patients know about any drug company kickbacks going to their prescriber, to better caring for babies born with addiction and seniors on Medicare, there are many important bipartisan steps we can take right now.”
Additional measures that Brown sponsored put into the committee’s recently passed package of opioid bills include one that will require health care providers to better talk with Medicare patients about addiction risks and another that protects pregnant and postpartum women seeking treatment for a substance use disorder at an IMD (Institution for Mental Disease) facility.
Latta’s informational act passed
On Tuesday, the U.S. House passed Latta’s INFO (Indexing Narcotics, Fentanyl and Opioids) Act.
According to a release from Latta’s office, the act establishes an accessible database of information and resources that can be used by hospitals, providers, state and local governments, pharmacists, advocates and law enforcement.
It will track federal funding concerning opioids.
“Every day, more than 115 Americans will die because of an overdose,” said Latta. “While this crisis continues to devastate communities, there is still a lack of information that is making it difficult to create strategies that can effectively address this epidemic.
“At the same time, I continue to hear from constituents in my district that don’t know where to turn to receive federal funding, despite record resources being made available. I authored the INFO Act to solve these problems and make it so those on the front lines can easily find the data and information they need to best serve their communities.”