Senate advances opioid legislation

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The Silent Sufferers of the Opioid Crisis


The Senate on Wednesday advanced a bill that aims to treat those suffering from addiction to prescription painkillers and heroin, assuring the measure will reach President Barack Obama's desk just days before the summer recess is scheduled to begin.

The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act passed a test vote by a 90-2 margin after it was overwhelmingly approved in the House on Friday by a 407-5 vote. After a final vote in the Senate, Obama is expected to sign it into law.

Among its measures, the legislation allows the federal government to award grants to states to treat people who are addicted to painkillers like oxycodone and to its street alternative, heroin, and allows physician assistants and nurse practitioners to prescribe buprenorphine, a drug that helps curb addiction cravings.

The bill represents a shift from previous drug control policy, which has focused on law enforcement measures rather than on helping people with drug dependence access treatment.

Deaths from opioids like painkillers and heroin have reached epidemic proportions in recent years, killing 47,000 people in 2014 and surpassing car accidents as the No. 1 cause of injury death. In Congress, both parties have agreed the issue needs to be addressed, but funding has been an ongoing area of discussion.

The final bill does not come with any funding attached to it, even though the Obama administration requested $1.1 billion for the cause. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has called the bill "very meaningless" without resources.

Republicans have said that they will authorize funding when Congress returns in September from its summer recess, though they plan to appropriate only a fraction of the president's request – $581 million coming from the next year's health spending bill.

RELATED: More on a heroin overdose antidote

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Heroin Overdose Antidote
Jennifer Stepp (L) and her daughter Audrey, 8, teach a Naloxone training class for children and adults on how to save lives by injecting Naloxone into people suffering opioid overdoses at the Hillview Community Center in Louisville, Kentucky, November 21, 2015. REUTERS/John Sommers II
A Naloxone Rescue Kit is pictured at the home of Jennifer Stepp in Sherpherdsville, Kentucky, November 18, 2015. Jennifer is teaching her daughter Audrey how to inject Naloxone using this kit with a preloaded syringe similar to an Epi-pen, along with a regular syringe and a nasal injection method. REUTERS/John Sommers II
Jennifer Stepp (L) and her daughter Audrey, 8, teach a Naloxone training class for children and adults on how to save lives by injecting Naloxone into people suffering opioid overdoses at the Hillview Community Center in Louisville, Kentucky, November 21, 2015. REUTERS/John Sommers II
Audrey Stepp, 8, practices injecting a heroin antidote, naloxone, into her stuffed lamb Bill, at home in Sherpherdsville, Kentucky, November 18, 2015. Audrey is being trained how to inject Naloxone using a kit with a preloaded syringe similar to an Epi-pen, along with a regular syringe and a nasal injection method. REUTERS/John Sommers II
A vial of Naloxone and syringe are pictured at a Naloxone training class taught by Jennifer Stepp and her daughter Audrey for adults and children to learn how to save lives by injecting Naloxone into people suffering opioid overdoses at the Hillview Community Center in Louisville, Kentucky, November 21, 2015. REUTERS/John Sommers II
Jennifer Stepp and her daughter Audrey Stepp, 8, hand out trainer boxes of Evzio, a Naloxone auto-injector that helps with opioid overdoses after a Naloxone training class for children and adults to learn how to inject Naloxone into people that overdose on opioids in Louisville, Kentucky, November 21, 2015. REUTERS/John Sommers II
Audrey Stepp, 8, measures out Naloxone as she practices injecting a heroin antidote into an orange and her stuffed lamb Bill, with her mother Jennifer Stepp at their home in Sherpherdsville, Kentucky, November 18, 2015. Audrey is being trained how to inject Naloxone using a kit with a preloaded syringe similar to an Epi-pen, along with a regular syringe and a nasal injection method. REUTERS/John Sommers II
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