One year after SUPPORT Act, work has only begun

Published 10:08 pm Tuesday, October 22, 2019


Guest columnist

Last year, I was proud to work with my colleagues on the House Energy and Commerce Committee to pass the Substance Use-Disorder Prevention that Promotes Opioid Recovery and Treatment (SUPPORT) for Patients and Communities Act, a comprehensive package of bills aimed at combating our nation’s ongoing opioid crisis. In an age of hyper-partisan strife in Congress, Republicans and Democrats came together to deliver relief to Kentuckians who are suffering from the opioid epidemic. This landmark piece of legislation was signed into law a year ago this week, on Oct. 24, 2018.

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My bill, the Comprehensive Opioid Recovery Centers Act, was included in the final SUPPORT Act and focused on treatment and recovery for substance use disorder patients. Most substance use disorder treatment facilities offer only one kind of treatment – but addiction is not one-size-fits-all, so treatment for addiction is not one-size-fits-all. I introduced the Comprehensive Opioid Recovery Centers Act to establish a grant program to create facilities that will offer a full spectrum of addiction and opioid use disorder treatments – including all evidence-based treatments and FDA-approved medications for substance use disorder, as well as services like housing, counseling, and help finding employment.

I am encouraged by the results of the SUPPORT Act so far, but more work needs to be done to fully eradicate the opioid epidemic. I recently held an opioid roundtable in Danville to discuss the implementation of the SUPPORT Act and to examine the current and future needs of those suffering with substance use disorder. I appreciated our constructive conversation that included state officials, treatment providers, and community representatives.

As the top Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee, one of my top priorities is putting an end to illicit fentanyl that is coming across our borders. This summer, I led a congressional hearing examining how fentanyl – a synthetic opioid that is 80 to 100 times stronger than morphine and 50 times more potent than heroin – has worsened the opioid crisis in our communities. A small amount of fentanyl can be deadly to anyone who comes in contact with it, such as our brave law enforcement officers. Most alarmingly, the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released data that shows opioid deaths related to fentanyl increased by 47% between 2016 and 2017 – what the CDC is now calling the “third wave” of the national opioid epidemic.

In August, I had the opportunity to tour the International Mail Facility located at JFK Airport in New York, where 60% of our international mail is processed in the U.S. We are currently seeing a huge influx of illicit fentanyl from China smuggled into the U.S. over our southern border and via the U.S. Postal Service. Most shipments of fentanyl are coming from activity on the “dark web.” Once the product is purchased, vendors often use discreet or disguised packaging to ship fentanyl – such as a printer accessories, candles, or even toys. In my role as the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee top Republican, I intend to continue our investigations into fentanyl so we can stop illegal drugs from entering the U.S.

Recently, I joined the top Republican on the Energy and Commerce Committee, Rep. Greg Walden (OR-02), and top Republican on the Health Subcommittee, Rep. Michael Burgess (TX- 26), in requesting information from the public about treatment for substance use disorder. Last Congress, the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee started an investigation into patient brokering and fraud in opioid use disorder treatment facilities. We want to learn more about the challenges, failures, fraud, and abuse within the substance use disorder treatment industry, as well as information regarding best practices and ways to improve the quality of care for substance use disorder. All comments are welcome. If you or a loved one have sought or received treatment for opioid use disorder and would like to share more about your experience, please email by Nov. 1, 2019.

As we approach the anniversary of the SUPPORT Act becoming law, I am grateful for the bipartisan work in the House and Senate to combat our nation’s opioid crisis. However, our work is not over. I will continue to work with my colleagues to help Kentuckians who are suffering from our nation’s opioid epidemic.


Congressman Brett Guthrie represents Kentucky’s Second District in the U.S. House of Representatives. He serves as the top Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations and as a senior member of the Health Subcommittee.