Guthrie’s ‘opioid bill’ signed into law

Published 6:55 am Saturday, October 27, 2018

The “opioid bill” Rep. Brett Guthrie discussed and said was “sitting on the president’s desk” during a roundtable event last week in Danville, was signed into law Wednesday. It is part of HR 6, the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act, and specifically targets centers offering medical treatments for opioid addiction.

On Oct. 18, Guthrie, the Republican representative for Kentucky’s Second District, invited about 30 health care professionals and other state officials to meet at Ephraim McDowell Regional Medical Center, where they discussed the epidemic and his legislation.

Referred to as the Comprehensive Opioid Recovery Centers Act, the bill establishes a grant program for treatment facilities to offer “all FDA-approved treatments for opioid use disorder, as well as to provide residential rehabilitation, recovery housing and community-based and peer recovery support services.”

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Guthrie said during the meeting he knew there were other drugs involved in national epidemics, but that “this bill focuses on opioids.”

One former addict-turned-drug-counselor discussed how drugs are always resurfacing, referencing heroin’s comeback, and that there will always be different ones finding their way back to the streets and back in style. He discussed how targeting a specific type of drug doesn’t always work, since another will eventually take its place.

On that same note, Van Ingram, director of the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy, spoke about methamphetamine’s popularity, and how the quality of what’s on the street now surpases what the everyday user can make themselves. “It’s a high quality of stuff … and it can be purchased for way cheaper than what someone can make it for.”

Meeting participants also inquired specifically about how funding would be handled and dispersed, with some citing difficulties in obtaining prior federal grants, as in the cases for certain types of non-medical treatment options, for example. Exactly how the money would be divvied up is still unclear, and Guthrie had representatives with SAMSHA — the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services — join via conference call.

SAMSHA representatives said the details on disbursement were still being figured out.

But Guthrie did note how there were groups in the room that focus on different types of treatment, whether it be medical assisted or faith-based, who do “fantastic work.” He said he wanted to try and encourage centers “to look at all options, because not every option works for every person …”

Another piece of the legislation, called the Career Act, focuses on area workforces and housing where addicts are concerned. Ingram said as someone with an intense law enforcement background, it’s incredible how the focus has been “almost a 180” from the zero-tolerance attitude of years gone by, to educating employers on why they should give second chances. He and others, he said, had been working with multiple chambers of commerce organizations to enlighten them on how addiction had been negatively affecting the workforce, and it was a trend that needed to change.

The bill also affects access to Medicaid funding for substance use disorder treatment, and to help pregnant women and new mothers receive treatments.

Ingram also said “a good portion” of the $30 million State Opioid Response Grants will be used for prevention, aimed to cover curriculums in 86 school districts for anti-drug education.

Guthrie said he invited communities to offer additional feedback on how best to direct the funding.