WASHINGTON - If there's any indication that the Ohio congressional delegation is concerned about the state's opioid epidemic, it might be this: Within the past week, four Ohio lawmakers have introduced or announced plans to introduce three bills aimed at addressing drug addiction.
WASHINGTON — If there’s any indication that the Ohio congressional delegation is concerned about the state’s opioid epidemic, it might be this: Within the past week, four Ohio lawmakers have introduced or announced plans to introduce three bills aimed at addressing drug addiction.
First, Reps. Tim Ryan, D-Niles, and Marcia L. Fudge, D-Warrensville Heights, introduced a bill that would make it easier for in-patients treating substance-abuse addiction to receive Medicaid reimbursement.
Then, Sen. Rob Portman joined three other U.S. senators to convene a forum on women suffering from addiction. He said at that forum that he is working with Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., on a bill to address opiate addiction and increase prevention and treatment initiatives. The bill is still being finalized, but Portman said he will introduce it in the near future.
And Wednesday, Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, announced that he had introduced a bill aimed at addressing opioid addiction. “This is a complex scourge that requires multiple solutions,” Brown said.
While the issue is the same, the approaches are different:
The Ryan-Fudge bill would allow participating states to receive federal reimbursement for Medicaid services provided to all eligible in-patients who receive treatment for substance abuse at a community treatment facility. The bill partially undoes a 1965 law that excludes states from receiving federal reimbursement for services provided in what is known as an Institution for Mental Diseases. Fudge said the exemption was an “outmoded barrier” that prevented the treatment of those with substance-abuse problems.
Portman’s bill, still being drafted, would establish programs to help with physician and public education as well as prevention and treatment initiatives. According to his office, the bill will be introduced in the “near future.”
Brown’s bill would expand the ability of doctors to provide medication-assisted therapies for patients dealing with heroin or prescription drug abuse. According to Brown’s office, of the 2.5 million Americans who abused or were dependent on opioids in 2012, fewer than 40 percent received medication-assisted therapy, such as Suboxone, in their treatment.
His bill, which he is co-sponsoring with Sens. Ed Markey, D-Mass., Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., and Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, would increase the number of patients doctors can prescribe such treatment for, as well as allowing some nurse practitioners and physician assistants to prescribe such treatment.
According to the nonpartisan Trust for America’s Health, Ohio had the 12th highest drug-overdose mortality rate in the United States in 2013, with 16.1 per 100,000 people suffering fatal drug overdoses. That number — with most deaths occurring from prescription drugs — has almost quadrupled since 1999, when the rate was 4.2 per 100,000.