Senate poised to add $1B to opioid fight

Dayton medics remove an overdose patient from a house in October. Dayton Police Department Officer Joe Sheen was first to arrive and administer naloxone to a man suffering an opioid overdose. It took Sheen and Dayton Fire Department medics 12 doses of naloxone to revive the man who later said he took a pink pill. Medics and police suspect the pill contained carfentanil. CHRIS STEWART / STAFF
Caption
Dayton medics remove an overdose patient from a house in October. Dayton Police Department Officer Joe Sheen was first to arrive and administer naloxone to a man suffering an opioid overdose. It took Sheen and Dayton Fire Department medics 12 doses of naloxone to revive the man who later said he took a pink pill. Medics and police suspect the pill contained carfentanil. CHRIS STEWART / STAFF

Portman says Ohio will benefit ‘disproportionately’ because of problem’s scope.

The U.S. Senate was expected to pass a bill late Tuesday or early Wednesday that includes $1 billion to fight the nation’s opioid epidemic — a key priority of the Ohio congressional delegation and one that Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, successfully campaigned on this year.

The 21st Century Cures Act, which also included money for the Obama Administration’s “cancer moonshot,” will provide $500 million for opioids in fiscal year 2017 and $300 million in cancer funding. In all, the bill contains $4.8 billion for medical research over 10 years.

“Ohio will benefit disproportionately,” Portman said in a conference call with reporters Tuesday, “because, sadly, the problem is so big.”

The opioid funding will be released as state grants that can be used for anything from improving prescription drug monitoring programs to training for health care workers.

While Portman ran campaign ads on the issue, many in the delegation have been involved.

“Every time I meet with Ohioans on the front lines of the opioid crisis they tell me the number one thing they need is funding to combat this emergency – they have been begging for help and now help is finally on the way,” said Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio. “This long overdue investment in this public health crisis will send help their way by prioritizing grant money for states like Ohio that most need resources.”

Suburban Columbus Rep. Pat Tiberi, R-Genoa Twp., called the opioid funding “a huge step” in fighting the epidemic. The overall bill was paid for through cuts to health care providers and through a variety of other provisions.

“It doesn’t add a dime to the deficit,” Tiberi said, calling the bill “a game changer when it comes to trying to deal with health care innovation and getting America at the center of it all again.”

Portman and Brown both backed the bill but opposed a procedural measure that blocked the inclusion of a provision that would protect pension and health benefits for retired coal miners.

“I’m disappointed they wouldn’t allow amendments, “Portman said. The two senators are hoping that the coal miner provisions are tucked later this week into a bill that will continue the funding of the federal government.

That funding is separate from the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, a bill Portman pushed earlier this year that would change the way funding is used to focus on evidenced-based programs. Congress will vote later this week on a spending bill that Portman hopes will include part of the $181 million in funding that that bill requires each year.

“Given the epidemic we face and the urgency of it, both are needed,” he said.

In a report released Tuesday, the Drug Enforcement Administration said overdose deaths nationally more than tripled between 2010 and 2014, with 10,574 people dying from heroin overdoses in 2014 alone.

“We face a public health crisis of historic proportions,” DEA Acting Administrator Chuck Rosenberg said.

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