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  • Opioid Crisis Response Act | The 2018 Senate Bill, Summarized

    Opioid Crisis Response Act | The 2018 Senate Bill, Summarized

    In September of 2018, the United States Congress approved a comprehensive bipartisan bill designed to combat the mounting threat posed by the American opioid epidemic

    The bill, which was approved by the Senate 99-1, was signed into law by President Donald Trump in October of the same year as the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act.

    The Opioid Crisis Response Act

    This act, authored by Senator Lamar Alexander, R-Tennessee, was designed from more than 70 proposals recommended to the Senate by members of five different committees. It had wide-reaching implications for some of the most critical facets of the opioid crisis.


    It also authorized appropriations for an estimated $7.9 billion in funding for the: 

    • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
    • Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)
    • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)
    • National Institutes of Health (NIH)
    • other agencies actively involved in combating opioid abuse

    Key Provisions

    Key provisions of the act include:

    • The Synthetics Trafficking and Overdose Prevention Act (STOP) act, aimed at stemming the flow of illegal drugs and synthetic opioids (including fentanyl) that come into the United States through the mail.
    • Food and Drug Administration (FDA) creation of new, small dose packaging for opioids to limit over-prescription and excess painkiller supply following medical treatment.
    • Designation of $10M per year from 2019 to 2023 to support the creation of Comprehensive Opioid Recovery Centers that provide housing, job training, and medically supervised withdrawal management for opioid use disorder.
    • A new interagency task force speciating in trauma-informed care. This task force identifies, evaluates, and makes recommendations regarding best practices for care aimed at children and for babies born in opioid withdrawal.
    • Support for medical school and residency training focusing on addiction and pain management, amounting to a $4M grant program established between the fiscal years of 2019 and 2023 for curriculum development.
    • A new Drug Addiction Treatment Act of 2000 (DATA 2000) waiver pathway for recent medical school graduates who have completed a curriculum that permits them to treat opioid dependence with buprenorphine and methadone in various treatment settings.
    • A loan repayment program for Substance Use Disorder (SUD) treatment providers practicing in high-need areas. These loans are available up to $250,000, with funding of $25M authorized for each fiscal year between 2019 and 2023.
    • Buprenorphine medication-assisted treatment (MAT) cohorts are increased to 100 from 30, so long as the provider is a board-certified addiction medicine or addiction psychiatry physician working in a qualified health care setting.
    • Nurse practitioners and physicians’ assistants receive permanent buprenorphine prescribing authority.
    • Until October 1, 2023, qualifying clinical nurse specialists, certified registered nurse anesthetists, and certified nurse-midwives are eligible to prescribe buprenorphine.
    • Expansion of an existing program to equip first responders, including law enforcement and firefighters, with naloxone, an opioid overdose antidote
    • Authorization of $10M per year from 2019 to 2023 for hospitals to develop protocols for discharging patients who have overdosed on opioids, including harm reduction and treatment referral procedures.
    • Amendment of State Medicaid plan options to cover inpatient/residential treatment in facilities with more than 16 beds.
    • Expansion of Medicare and Medicaid coverage related to substance abuse treatment options.

    Criticism Of The Act

    Before and after the act was approved, revised, and signed into law, public health professionals, doctors, and other experts were quoted in numerous articles expressing appreciation for what the act covered, and frustration that it didn’t do enough.

    While the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act designated approximately 8 billion dollars towards combating the opioid crisis, experts noted estimates that cited that tens of billions of dollars would ultimately be needed to address the crisis conclusively.

    At the same time, the provisions in the act fall far short of the unified, comprehensive, and aggressive work undertaken to combat and control the spread of the HIV/AIDs virus worldwide in the 1980s and early 1990s.

    Treating Opioid Addiction

    If you or a loved one suffers from opioid use disorder, we invite you to explore the care and treatment options available through a qualified substance abuse treatment center, including:

    To learn more, please contact us today.

    Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
    ©2023 Ark National Holdings, LLC. | All Rights Reserved.
    This page does not provide medical advice.
    Medically Reviewed by
    Kimberly Langdon M.D.
    on March 5, 2021
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