President Trump Signs Alexander Bill to Fight Opioid Crisis

Press Release

Date: Oct. 24, 2018
Location: Washington, DC
Issues: Drugs

President Donald J. Trump today signed into law U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander's (R-Tenn.) legislation to help states and local communities fight the opioid crisis. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has called it "landmark legislation." Alexander, who attended the White House bill signing ceremony with President Trump, is chairman of the Senate's health committee.

"This is the most important new health care law this year," Alexander said. "It deals with the nation's worst public health epidemic by helping to stop deadly fentanyl from coming from China to America by mail, finding new non-addictive pain killers, reducing the supply of opioids and providing more opportunities for treatment. During this year, Congress has appropriated $8.5 billion to help implement this legislation and support communities, families, law enforcement and medical personnel who are fighting this crisis."

"Opioid addiction knows no boundaries and impacts many Tennesseans regardless of race, income, gender or age. This new law is a major step in helping fight this epidemic -- it will help limit the supply of opioids, help develop a non-addictive pain killer, provide resources to provide treatment for those with opioid use disorders, and much more," Governor Haslam said. "I feel confident that this comprehensive plan will make a difference in the lives of Tennesseans and I thank Sen. Alexander for his leadership on this tough issue."

"The prescription opioid and heroin epidemic is destroying lives and tearing apart families," said U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.). "By taking a multifaceted approach that includes reducing the number of unnecessary opioid prescriptions, improving detection and seizure of illegal drugs, accelerating research and innovation of non-addictive pain medicines, and sharing valuable data between states, we can responsibly help combat this increasingly devastating problem. I thank Senator Alexander for his leadership on this issue and am pleased the president has signed this legislation into law so we can continue to help countless Americans who have been impacted by this crisis."

Alexander said the new law "represents the work of 8 committees in the House and 5 committees in the Senate who have worked together across party lines to help address the opioid crisis, which is hurting virtually every American community. There has been a bipartisan sense of urgency that we do this well and that we do this now."

The SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act is the product of bipartisan bills that passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 396-14 in June and the Senate by a vote of 99-1 in September.

Alexander concluded, "Last year, more Tennesseans died from opioid overdoses than were killed in car crashes. In my home, Blount County where 130,000 people live, there were 130,000 opioid prescriptions."

Here are 10 key provisions of this legislation:

1. STOP Act--to stop illegal drugs, including fentanyl, at the border

2. New non-addictive painkillers, research and fast-track

3. Blister packs for opioids, such as a 3 or 7 day supply

4. Extends support for Medicaid patients seeking treatment from 15 to 30 days, covering all substance use disorders

5. TREAT Act--permanently allows more medical professionals to treat people in recovery to prevent relapse and overdoses

6. Prevent "doctor-shopping" by improving state prescription drug monitoring programs

7. More behavioral and mental health providers

8. Support for comprehensive opioid recovery centers

9. Help for babies born in opioid withdrawal and for mothers with opioid use disorders

10. More early intervention with vulnerable children who have experienced trauma

Separately, Congress has appropriated $8.5 billion this year towards fighting the opioid crisis, after the Fiscal Year 2018 Omnibus Appropriations bill Congress passed in March included $4.7 billion to fight the opioid crisis and the FY2019 Health and Human Services Appropriations bill Congress passed in September included $3.8 billion to fight the crisis. The SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act will help states and communities use these funds to better address the opioid crisis.

Read more from Tennesseans on why this opioids legislation is important to our state:

"This legislation's passage represents an important step forward in helping Tennessee families, medical professionals, and law enforcement turn the tide against prescription painkiller abuse. I congratulate Senator Alexander for helping create a roadmap for Tennessee and the rest of our nation to follow in creating a future where prescription painkiller abuse becomes a thing of the past." -- Tennessee Department of Commerce & Insurance Commissioner and National Association of Insurance Commissioners President Julie Mix McPeak

"We applaud Senator Alexander's and the President's continued leadership on dealing with an issue that is bringing harm to so many American communities and families. Sen. Alexander has visited our region, and has seen firsthand how our families, hospitals and schools are being impacted. He took our suggestions, and now many of those suggestions are law. We believe this bill will have a meaningful impact." -- Alan Levine, chairman and chief executive officer of Ballad Health, a 21-hospital system operating in the southern Appalachian region of Tennessee and Virginia.

"Police, Fire and all first responders witness almost daily the tragedy associated with the opioid crisis that not only effects our community, but all communities across America. I am encouraged by the passing of legislation that aids in the fight of ridding our country of the epidemic." -- Chief Tony Crisp, Chief of Police and Fire City of Maryville

"The opioid epidemic is having a substantial effect on pregnant women and infants nationwide. Today, one infant is born every 15 minutes with signs of opioid withdrawal. The SUPPORT Act makes several important steps forward to help pregnant women and infants affected by the opioid epidemic. The Act ensures implementation of the Department of Health and Human Services plan to improve care for pregnant women and infants affected by the opioid epidemic, increases funding and guidance for our child welfare systems and creates improvements in multiple systems to better understand the role of trauma in populations affected by the opioid epidemic. Each of these provisions will help improve outcomes for this vulnerable population." -- Dr. Stephen Patrick, Director of the Vanderbilt Center for Child Health Policy and a neonatologist at Vanderbilt Children's Hospital