A bill introduced Friday by Rep. Paul Tonko is aimed at fighting a surge in addiction cases across the country amid the physical and emotional stresses of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The measure, which has Republican backing as well as support in the U.S. Senate, would boost funding for addiction prevention, education, research and recovery and is meant to build on previous efforts in fighting drug abuse.
The proposal comes amid a sharp rise in opioid overdoses and deaths in the last year during the pandemic.
“With the global COVID pandemic continuing to drive unprecedented mental health challenges and a scary spike in opioid deaths, we need to take action now to expand access to safe, proven and affordable treatments and other lifesaving services,” Tonko said.
Lawmakers backing the measure want to fund research into non-opioid management efforts, boost access to telehealth services and bar states from requiring prior authorization for medication-assisted treatment under the Medicaid program. The bill would also end the limit on the number of patients a doctor can treat with medication assistance under Medicaid.
The measure is also meant to build on the existing Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, a law that addressed prevention, treatment and recovery, as well as law enforcement and criminal justice reforms.