Bennet Secures Three Provisions in Bipartisan Legislation to Fight Opioid Epidemic

Washington, D.C. – Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet today secured three provisions in the bipartisan Opioid Crisis Response Act, which unanimously passed the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) and will help tackle the opioid epidemic.

“In too many counties across Colorado, the hospitals are overwhelmed with a shortage of beds and specialists; the courts are barely staying above water; and the jails are more crowded than ever because there’s limited resources for opioid addiction treatment,” Bennet said. “We must invest in a broader effort to respond to a crisis of this magnitude, and this bipartisan legislation brings us one step closer to that goal.”

Bennet Provisions Included in Legislation

The first provision is based on a Bennet-Hatch bill to expedite the approval of opioid alternatives, ensuring those facing opioid addiction can access innovative treatments more quickly. The legislation instructs the Food and Drug Administration to clarify how the Breakthrough Designation and Accelerated Approval—both which create expedited pathways for approval—apply to non-addictive pain medications and treatments for substance use disorders.

The second provision is based on a Bennet-Gardner bill to fund new approaches for decreasing opioid use. To fund the provision, the HELP Committee passed a Bennet amendment that provides $5 million each year through 2023 to establish protocols and demonstrations for hospital and emergency department providers on prescribing alternatives to opioids for pain management. As a first line of defense against the opioid epidemic, emergency rooms are well positioned to serve as laboratories of innovation. At the same time, because of the short-term nature of the care they provide, emergency rooms are often highly susceptible to "doctor shopping," where patients seek to obtain multiple prescriptions for misuse or abuse. This funding would expand upon pilot programs that address this challenge, such as the Colorado Opioid Safety Collaborative Pilot that decreased emergency department opioid usage by 36 percent in just six months.

The third provision updates the Controlled Substances Act so providers can treat patients with the most novel therapies for opioid use disorders. This is a modernization of current law which will expand access to treatments that help patients maintain recovery.