Greg Walden shepherds 25 bills through House of Representatives to combat nationwide opioid crisis

June 12, 2018
Press Release

Greg Walden shepherds 25 bills through House of Representatives to combat nationwide opioid crisis

Walden says, “We will not rest until we have won the fight against opioid addiction”

Click here or on the image above to view Walden’s speech on the floor of the House of Representatives

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Continuing his efforts to address a public health crisis that is killing more than 100 Americans every day, Representative Greg Walden (R-Hood River) today led a bipartisan effort to advance 25 bills through the House of Representative to combat the nationwide opioid crisis. During a speech on the floor of the House, Walden stressed the importance of pushing forward in the fight against opioid addiction in Oregon and across the country.

“In my Oregon district, I’ve held multiple round table discussions with parents, those addicted and those who treat the addicted. I’ve talked with law enforcement officials and emergency room physicians.  I’ve sought the counsel and advice of those who are closest to this national problem and I worked with my colleagues to carefully craft federal legislation that responds to their suggestions,” said Walden.

"The headlines are everywhere, and they tell the tragic stories of loved ones gone far too soon.  We’re confronting an addiction that mercilessly seizes control and destroys.  This killer doesn’t discriminate -- not by age, not by race, not by where you live or what you believe.  We’re here because opioid addiction continues to take the lives of more than 100 Americans each and every day.  These are real people, in all of our districts.”

As Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Representative Walden has been at the forefront of the Congressional response to the opioid crisis.

Under Walden’s leadership, the Energy and Commerce Committee has advanced 57 bills to the House of Representatives aimed at addressing the opioid crisis through treatment and recovery, prevention, protecting communities, and fighting dangerous synthetic opioids like fentanyl.

During his speech today, Walden shared the story of Grants Pass resident Mike Pelfrey, whose family has been personally impacted by opioid addiction. Mr. Pelfrey has attended multiple meetings Walden has held in southern Oregon to discuss solutions to combat the opioid crisis. Walden highlighted the ALTO Act (H.R. 5197), which passed by voice vote today and focuses on alternatives to addictive opioids for pain management.

“The first time I met Mike was at a roundtable I held in southern Oregon. Mike didn’t know anyone in the room. He had heard the news about our meeting to discuss opioid abuse and wanted to share his family’s story,” said Walden. “His son was injured in a school sporting accident and became addicted to the prescription painkillers provided by his doctor to aid in his recovery. Eventually, Mike’s son made the all-too-familiar transition to a cheaper source: heroin.

"To this day, Mike’s son still struggles with his addiction that began with opioid abuse. Mike went on to speak about his sister who also suffered from addiction. A nurse, his sister found herself with easier access to pills than most. When coworkers and others caught on, she moved and continued to procure pills.  She died as a result of her addiction.”

Click here or on the image above to hear Walden share the story of Mike Pelfrey, of Grants Pass

“At a more recent meeting I held in southern Oregon, Mike was present once more. During our meeting, Mike urged everyone to make combating the opioid crisis a top priority, saying, ‘The only way we are going to do it is address it, do something about it, and make this an everyday part of our thought.’

"Well, Mike, this Congress we have made addressing this scourge an everyday part of our thoughts and efforts, and we will continue to do so no matter how long it takes to rip this terrible menace out of our communities,” said Walden.

Walden today vowed to continuing searching for solutions that attack the opioid crisis from all angles. The House of Representative will also consider additional legislation this week and next week to combat the opioid crisis.

“So, while the scourge of addiction looms large before us, I believe that we as a Congress, and we the American people, are up to the task,” said Walden.

“The bills before us are not our first efforts in this fight, and you have my word that they won’t be our last. I urge my colleagues to support the legislation before the House these next two weeks.  We have an opportunity to save lives, and we have a responsibility to our families, friends, communities and nation to lift people out of addiction and get America on a better path.”

For a complete list of legislation -- all of which originated in Walden’s Energy and Commerce Committee -- that advanced through the House of Representatives today, please see below:

  • H.R. 449, the Synthetic Drug Awareness Act of 2018, authored by Reps. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) and Chris Collins (R-NY), will require the U.S. Surgeon General to submit a comprehensive report to Congress on the public health effects of the rise in synthetic drug use among youth aged 12 to 18 in order to further educate parents and the medical community on the health effects of synthetics. H.R. 449 passed by voice vote.
  • H.R. 5473, the Better Pain Management Through Better Data Act of 2018, authored by Reps. Barbara Comstock (R-VA) and Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM), will direct the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to articulate clear data collection methods that could be used to inform opioid-sparing labeling claims for products that may replace, delay, or reduce or the use of opioid analgesics. H.R. 5473 passed by voice vote.
  • H.R. 3331, to amend title XI of the Social Security Act to promote testing of incentive payments for behavioral health providers for adoption and use of certified electronic health record technology, authored by Reps. Lynn Jenkins (R-KS) and Doris Matsui (D-CA), will promote the testing of incentive payments for behavioral health providers for adoption and use of certified electronic health record technology. H.R. 3331 passed by voice vote.
  • H.R. 4284, the Indexing Narcotics, Fentanyl, and Opioids (INFO) Act of 2017, authored by #SubDCCP Chairman Bob Latta (R-OH), will direct HHS to create a public and easily accessible electronic dashboard linking to all of the nationwide efforts and strategies to combat the opioid crisis. H.R. 4284 passed by voice vote.
  • H.R. 4684, the Ensuring Access to Quality Sober Living Act of 2018, authored by Reps. Judy Chu (D-CA), Mimi Walters (R-CA), Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), and Raul Ruiz (D-CA), will authorize the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to develop, publish, and disseminate best practices for operating recovery housing that promotes a safe environment for sustained recovery from substance use disorder (SUD). H.R. 4684 passed by voice vote.
  • H.R. 5002, ACE Research Act, authored by Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI) and #SubEnergy Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI), will provide the National Institutes of Health (NIH) with new, flexible authorities to conduct innovative research and spur urgently needed research on new non-addictive pain medications. H.R. 5002 passed by voice vote.
  • H.R. 5800, the Medicaid IMD ADDITIONAL INFO Act, authored by #SubEnergy Chairman Upton, will direct the Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission (MACPAC) to conduct a study on institutions for mental disease (IMD) that receive Medicaid reimbursement. The study will report on the requirements and standards that some state Medicaid programs have for IMDs. MACPAC, considering input from stakeholders, will summarize the findings and make recommendations on improvements and best practices and data collection. The report would be due no later than January 2020. H.R. 5800 passed by voice vote.
  • H.R. 5009, Jessie’s Law, authored by Reps. Tim Walberg (R-MI) and Dingell, will ensure medical professionals have access to a consenting patient’s complete health history when making treatment decisions by requiring the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to develop and disseminate best practices regarding the prominent display of substance use disorder (SUD) history in patient records of patients who have previously provided this information to a health care provider. H.R. 5009 passed by voice vote.
  • H.R. 5041, the Safe Disposal of Unused Medication Act, authored by Reps. Walberg and Dingell, will help reduce the number of unused controlled substances at risk of diversion or misuse by allowing hospice employees to safely dispose of these medications onsite after the death of a patient. H.R. 5041 passed by a vote of 398-0.
  • H.R. 5102, the Substance Use Disorder Workforce Loan Repayment Act of 2018, authored by Reps. Katherine Clark (D-MA) and Hal Rogers (R-KY), will create a loan repayment program for SUD treatment providers. Specifically, the bill will offer student loan repayment of up to $250,000 for participants who agree to work as a SUD treatment professional in areas most in need of their services. The program will be available to a wide range of direct care providers, including physicians, registered nurses, social workers, and other behavioral health professionals. H.R. 5102 passed by voice vote.
  • H.R. 5176, the Preventing Overdoses While in Emergency Rooms (POWER) Act, authored by #SubEnvironment Vice Chairman David McKinley (R-WV) and Michael Doyle (D-PA), will provide resources for hospitals to develop protocols on discharging patients who have presented with an opioid overdose. These protocols would address the provision of naloxone upon discharge, connection with peer-support specialists, and the referral to treatment and other services that best fit the patient’s needs. H.R. 5176 passed by voice vote.
  • H.R. 5228, the Stop Counterfeit drugs by Regulating and Enhancing Enforcement Now (SCREEN) Act, authored by Energy and Commerce Committee Ranking Member Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), will provide the FDA with stronger recall and destruction authority to disrupt the entry of counterfeit and illicit drugs through International Mail Facilities (IMFs). H.R. 5228 passed by voice vote.
  • H.R. 5261, the TEACH to Combat Addiction Act of 2018, authored by Rep. Bill Johnson (R-OH), will support Centers of Excellence, or institutions of learning that have championed SUD treatment education to improve how health professionals are taught about both SUD and pain. H.R. 5261 passed by voice vote. 
  • H.R. 5272, to ensure that programs and activities that are funded by a grant, cooperative agreement, loan, or loan guarantee from the Department of Health and Human Services, and whose purpose is to prevent or treat a mental health or substance use disorder, are evidence-based, authored by Reps. Steve Stivers (R-OH) and Eliot Engel (D-NY), will direct SAMHSA to provide guidance for entities applying for SUD and mental illness grants, including guidance to grantees on how best to articulate the rationale for a given program or activity. Additionally, it will also encourage the funding of evidence-based interventions and the replication of promising or effective practices. H.R. 5272 passed by voice vote.
  • H.R. 5327, the Comprehensive Opioid Recovery Centers Act of 2018, authored by #SubHealth Vice Chairman Brett Guthrie (R-KY) and #SubHealth Ranking Member Green (D-TX), will establish Comprehensive Opioid Recovery Centers (CORCs) that will serve as models for comprehensive treatment and recovery. CORCs would utilize the full range of FDA-approved medications and evidence-based treatments, have strong linkages with the community, generate meaningful outcomes data, and dramatically improve the opportunities for individuals to establish and maintain long-term recovery as productive members of society. H.R. 5327 passed by a vote of 383-13.
  • H.R. 5329, the Poison Center Network Enhancement Act of 2018, authored by Reps. Susan Brooks R-IN), Engel, and Energy and Commerce Committee Vice Chairman Joe Barton (R-TX), will reauthorize the national network of Poison Control Centers, which offer free, confidential, and expert medical advice 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Often times these programs serve as the primary resource for poisoning information and help reduce Emergency Room visits through in-home treatment. H.R. 5329 passed by voice vote.
  • H.R. 5353, the Eliminating Opioid Related Infectious Diseases Act of 2018, authored by #SubCommTech Vice Chairman Leonard Lance (R-NJ) and Rep. Joe Kennedy III (D-MA), will authorize the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to undertake an injection drug use-associated infection elimination initiative and work with states to improve education, surveillance and treatment of injection drug-use associated infections, like human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and hepatitis. H.R. 5353 passed by voice vote.
  • H.R. 5483, the Special Registration for Telemedicine Clarification Act of 2018, authored by Reps. Buddy Carter (R-GA), Cheri Bustos (D-IL), Karen Handel (R-GA), Elise Stefanik (R-NY), and Bobby Rush (D-IL), will clarify telemedicine waivers. Federal law permits the Attorney General to issue a special registration to health care providers to prescribe controlled substances via telemedicine in legitimate emergency situations, such as a lack of access to an in-person specialist. Unfortunately, the waiver process has never been implemented through regulation, and some patients do not have the emergency access they need to treatment. This bipartisan bill directs the Attorney General, with the Secretary of HHS, to promulgate interim final regulations within one year of passage of the law. H.R. 5483 passed by voice vote.
  • H.R. 5582, the Abuse Deterrent Access Act of 2018, authored by Reps. Buddy Carter (R-GA), David Loebsack (D-IA), and Tom Reed (R-NY), will direct the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to evaluate the coverage of abuse-deterrent opioids in Medicare plans. H.R. 5582 passed by voice vote.
  • H.R. 5583, to require state Medicaid programs to annually report on certain adult health quality measures, authored by Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-NY), will require state Medicaid programs to report on the behavioral health measures that are included in CMS’ Core Set of Adult Health Care Quality Measures for Medicaid.  In 2018, there were 11 behavioral health measures. H.R. 5583 passed by voice vote.
  • H.R. 5685, the Medicare Opioid Safety Education Act of 2018, authored by Reps. John Faso (R-NY), Peter Welch (D-VT), and Jim Renacci (R-OH), will direct the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to compile education resources for beneficiaries regarding opioid use, pain management, and alternative pain management treatments, and include these resources in the “Medicare and You” Handbook. H.R. 5685 passed by voice vote.
  • H.R. 4275, the Empowering Pharmacists in the Fight Against Opioid Abuse Act, authored by Reps. Mark DeSaulnier (D-CA) and Carter, will help pharmacists detect fraudulent prescriptions. H.R. 4275 will help develop and disseminate materials, giving pharmacists greater understanding and ability to decline to fill controlled substances when they suspect the prescriptions are fraudulent, forged, or appear to be for abuse or diversion. H.R. 4275 passed by voice vote.
  • H.R. 5197, the Alternatives to Opioids (ALTO) Act, as amended, authored by Reps. Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ) and McKinley, will establish a demonstration program to test alternative pain management protocols to limit the use of opioids in hospital emergency departments. H.R. 5197 passed by voice vote.
  • H.R. 5587, the Peer Support Communities of Recovery Act, authored by Reps. Lujan and Johnson, will enhance the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act’s (CARA’s) Building Communities of Recovery Program and authorize the Department of Health and Human Services to award grants to peer support specialist organizations for the development and expansion of recovery services. Peer support specialists/peer recovery coaches are health workers who are in recovery from SUD. New programs are emerging across the country to use peers in a range of settings, including hospitals, to provide immediate and ongoing support and treatment linkages to individuals who have overdosed from opioids, or support individuals newly in recovery. H.R. 5587 passed by voice vote.
  • H.R. 5812, the Creating Opportunities that Necessitate New and Enhanced Connections That Improve Opioid Navigation Strategies (CONNECTIONS) Act, authored by #SubOversight Vice Chairman Morgan Griffith (R-VA) and Energy and Commerce Committee Ranking Member Pallone, will improve current federal support for state-run prescription drug monitoring programs. H.R. 5812 will authorize the CDC to carry out certain controlled substances overdose prevention and surveillance activities in order to improve data collection and integration into physician clinical workflow so that timely, complete, and accurate information will get into the hands of providers and dispensers so that they can make the best clinical decisions for their patients. H.R. 5812 passed by voice vote.

To be considered on Wednesday, June 13:

H.R. 5752, the Stop Illicit Drug Importation Act of 2018, authored by #SubCommTech Chairman Blackburn, will streamline and enhance FDA’s tools to intercept illegal products. Illicit or unapproved drugs enter the U.S. supply chain through IMFs and pose serious public health threats to individuals across the country.