The bipartisan heroin task force led by Brian Fitzpatrick and other representatives from Congress has released its newest agenda, which includes addressing the opioid epidemic from the law enforcement, prevention, treatment, and recovery perspectives.

The agenda mentions Fitzpatrick-led legislation like the Road to Recovery Act, which covers drug treatment, as well the International Narcotics Trafficking Emergency Response by Detecting Incoming Contraband with Technology (INTERDICT) Act- which covers the law enforcement aspect of battling the epidemic.

The Road to Recovery Act, which was announced last week, is legislation that aims to eliminate the Medicaid Institutions for Mental Diseases (IMD) exclusion for substance use disorder and help states expand access to inpatient treatment for Medicaid enrollees. The INTERDICT Act, announced in late April, is legislation which would provide U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) the latest in chemical screening devices and scientific support to detect and intercept fentanyl and other synthetic opioids.

The nine legislative efforts laid out in the task force’s agenda, according to Fitzpatrick, are in response to the quadrupling of drug overdoses involving prescription opioids and heroin since 1999. Drug-related deaths and opioid addiction rates are among their highest in Pennsylvania, since rising 20 percent in one year, and 50 percent in Fitzpatrick’s district alone which covers all of Bucks County and sections of Montgomery County.

Other aspects of the task force’s agenda include Jessie’s Law and the Stem the Tide of Overdose Prevalence from Opiate Drugs (STOP OD) Act. On the prevention level, Jessie’s Law, named after Michigan resident Jessie Grubb who passed from an overdose in 2016, would help ensure doctors have access to a consenting patient’s prior history of addiction in order to make fully informed care and treatment decisions. The STOP OD Act would also work on the prevention level by authorizing $225 million annually in grants for two years to expand educational efforts to prevent opiate abuse, promote treatment and recovery, promote the understanding that addiction is a chronic disease, provide access to Naloxone, training in the administration of the drug, and testing for Fentanyl.

On the recovery side, the Addiction Recovery Through Family Health Accounts Act would give family members the option of using funds in their Health Savings Accounts, Flexible Spending Accounts, or similar accounts to pay for addiction treatment for any relative, even if they aren’t a dependent.

Regarding the epidemic and how it affects children and their families, legislators have arranged both the Synthetic Drug Awareness Act and the Caring Recovery for Infants and Babies (CRIB) Act. The Synthetic Drug Awareness Act would require the United States Surgeon General to submit a report to Congress on the public health effects of the rise in synthetic drug use among young people aged 12 to 18. While the CRIB Act would establish residential pediatric care centers within Medicaid to treat babies exposed to opioids during pregnancy. This legislation also includes counseling to the mothers and families of the affected babies to help build those important connections from birth.

In caring for our nation’s heroes, legislators have seen success with the VA Prescription Data Accountability Act, which passed the House and since has been received in the Senate. That act clarifies current laws to stipulate that the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) is required to disclose information to state-controlled substance monitoring programs for anyone – veteran or non-veteran – who is prescribed these medications through VA. House legislators’ work now lies with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Pain Center of Excellence which would establish a new center and provide coordination across VA’s existing and innovative research programs on reducing the use of opioids and improving alternative treatments to pain. The Center of Excellence would also conduct new research, especially in prescriber education regarding pain and substance use.

“Fighting back against this addiction crisis requires a multi-faceted approach and the bold, bipartisan legislative agenda laid out by the Task Force responds to the real-world concerns expressed by local lawmakers, community leaders and healthcare professionals across the county who endeavor to tackle this epidemic each day. Together, we can win this fight.”