Republicans Advancing Bills on Opioid Crisis

U.S. Senate committee holds its sixth hearing on the problem as governors press for more help from Washington. Billions of dollars of new spending are in the offing. “A criminal justice approach doesn’t solve this problem,” says Oregon Gov. Kate Brown.

President Trump and other Republican leaders are pressing ahead with an array of opioid-related efforts, while Democrats are calling the GOP actions belated and insufficient, reports the Wall Street Journal. On Thursday, a bipartisan group of governors testified before the Senate Health Committee on opioid addiction in their states. The White House met with governors last week and held an opioid summit to highlight steps it has taken. “Every single governor has it at the top of his or her list, even more than Congress because they’re seeing it,” said Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN).  Alexander chairs the Senate Health Committee, which held its sixth hearing on opioids Thursday in an effort to pass legislation. In the House, the Energy and Commerce Committee plans to vote on eight bills on opioids in the coming weeks. Congress allocated $6 billion for opioid addiction and mental health treatment as part of a bipartisan budget deal.

The White House budget requested more than $3 billion in new funding in fiscal 2018 and $10 billion in 2019 to battle the opioid problem. Governors of both parties say more action is needed. Kentucky’s Republican Gov. Matt Bevin said, “We are not seriously enough addressing the problem.” Chris Christie, the former New Jersey governor who headed a presidential commission on opioids, said the federal effort to battle the crisis has been hampered by delays in filling key vacancies in agencies that tackle the opioid crisis and a reluctance in Congress to allocate more funding. Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat who testified at Thursday’s Senate hearing, said Trump hasn’t devoted enough resources to the opioid problem, especially to treatment. “A criminal justice approach doesn’t solve this problem,” she said.