How Portman’s Landmark Opioid Reforms Will Help Ohio
Tomorrow, President Trump will sign into law a landmark opioid reform package – legislation which includes key priorities Senator Portman authored and fought for as this measure moved through the House and Senate. It includes a number of Portman’s bills to help combat the opioid crisis, including his bipartisan STOP Act, Improving CARE Act, CRIB Act and several key initiatives from his bipartisan CARA 2.0 Act.
This bill is a major victory for Ohio and for the country because it will strengthen the federal government’s response to the opioid crisis. Importantly, the bill will increase access to long-term treatment and recovery while also helping stop the flow of deadly synthetic drugs like fentanyl from being shipped into the United States through our own Postal Service. Portman has worked for more than two years to get priorities like the STOP Act signed into law. Here is how these measures will benefit Ohio:
- Reducing the Supply of Cheap, Deadly Synthetic Drugs Like Fentanyl. Once implemented, the Synthetics Trafficking & Overdose Prevention (STOP) Act will help reduce the supply of fentanyl that is shipped into Ohio through the Postal Service. The Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (PSI), which Portman chairs, conducted an 18-month investigation into this issue and released a shocking bipartisan report detailing how drug traffickers exploit vulnerabilities in our international mail system to easily ship synthetic drugs like fentanyl from China into the United States though the U.S. Postal Service. The STOP Act will close the loophole. Reducing the cheap supply of fentanyl in the state will help increase the price of fentanyl and also reduce the risk that law enforcement officers are exposed to this deadly drug.
- Increasing Access to Treatment & Recovery. Included in the final bill is the Improving Coverage for Addiction Recovery Expansion (Improving CARE) Act, Portman’s measure that will lift the outdated Institutions for Mental Diseases (IMD) Exclusion bed cap that currently prevents Medicaid beneficiaries from seeking inpatient substance use disorder treatment, or rehab, in facilities with more than 16 beds. For Ohioans struggling with addiction and utilizing Medicaid to access treatment, there will no longer be an arbitrary cap that prevents someone from seeking care in the right setting for them. Lifting this outdated and unnecessary barrier will increase access to treatment and is a big victory for Ohio.
- Helping Babies Born Dependent on Drugs. This bill strengthens efforts to help babies born dependent on drugs, with a condition called neonatal abstinence syndrome, by including Portman’s Caring Recovery for Infants and Babies (CRIB) Act, legislation to help newborns suffering from addiction recover in the best care setting and provide support for their families. The bill would recognize residential pediatric recovery facilities as providers under Medicaid, allowing Medicaid to cover services in these facilities in addition to hospitals. Portman recently visited CommQuest Recovery Services in Massillon, which is standing up a ‘Mom and Me’ program to help mothers struggling with addiction heal in a home-like setting with their children, as well as Brigid’s Path in Dayton, which provides short-term, inpatient care in a home-like setting for newborns suffering from prenatal drug exposure. Both would benefit from the CRIB Act. The legislation also authorizes $60 million for a plan of safe care for babies born dependent on drugs, which is part of Portman’s CARA 2.0 legislation.
- Reauthorizing Key Federal Anti-Drug Initiatives. Portman has led efforts in the U.S. Senate to support important programs that have a proven record of success, like the Office of National Drug Control Policy, Drug Courts, Drug-Free Community prevention grants, and High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) grants. This bill reauthorizes these programs, demonstrating that they are worth the federal investment. In 1997, Portman authored the Drug-Free Communities Act, which supports evidence-based, community-oriented drug prevention programs, and he recently announced 25 new Drug-Free Communities Act grant recipients in Ohio. Fourteen counties in Ohio (the most recent becoming Butler County) receive funding or support through Ohio HIDTA, which leads efforts to combat drug trafficking and interdiction activity across the state and coordinates activity in counties that have been overwhelmed by opioids and fentanyl.
- Increasing Access to High-Quality Recovery Housing. The bill includes a provision from Portman’s CARA 2.0 legislation that establishes national quality standards and best practices for recovery housing to ensure that people who are transitioning out of treatment and into longer-term recovery have high-quality housing options that eliminate the gaps that so often occur in recovery. Since 2014, Ohio has offered accreditation for recovery housing through Ohio Recovery Housing. Now this will be used as a model for states across the county to help support individuals with stable and supportive housing.
- Implementing a National Youth Recovery Initiative. The bill includes a provision from Portman’s CARA 2.0 legislation that authorizes grant funding to support programs for high school and college students to help children and young adults recover from substance abuse disorders.
- Training Physicians on Addiction Medicine. The bill includes Portman’s Enhancing Access to Addiction Treatment Act, which will support medical schools and residency programs that train students and residents in addiction medicine. Increasing the number of physicians who can prescribe buprenorphine will help promote greater access to treatment in Ohio. There are eight medical schools in Ohio and each will now be better able to prepare students who are entering the medical profession with the training to help individuals struggling with addiction.
- Using Health IT to Improve Addiction Care & Outcomes. The measure includes Portman’s bipartisan Improving Access to Behavioral Health Information Technology Act to help behavioral health care providers – like psychologists and psychiatric hospitals – adopt electronic health records. Psychologists and other behavioral health specialists that are working to combat the opioid epidemic have largely been left behind in the national shift towards utilizing electronic health records and other health IT. This initiative provides incentives for behavioral health care providers to adopt health IT to help bridge this gap and improve the coordination and quality of care for Americans with mental health, addiction, and other behavioral health care needs.