Congress Passes Comprehensive Opioid Abuse Legislation with Provisions Hoeven Advanced to Prevent Sale & Shipment of Illicit Synthetic Drugs

Legislation Complements Senator’s Efforts in Appropriations Committee to Support Prevention, Treatment, Recovery and Law Enforcement Efforts

WASHINGTON – Senator John Hoeven today joined the Senate in passing bipartisan, comprehensive legislation to address all aspects of the opioid abuse crisis. The bill, which was previously passed under the title the Opioid Crisis Response Act, includes provisions the senator cosponsored to prevent the sale and shipment of illicit synthetic drugs like fentanyl. The legislation has now been approved by both chambers of Congress and will go to the president to be signed into law.

“This legislation will bolster efforts across the board to combat opioid abuse,” said Hoeven. “Passing this legislation will empower health care providers, first responders and law enforcement, providing them with additional tools to fend off the opioid abuse epidemic, which is impacting families and communities across our nation. This bill, which contains legislation I supported and helped include to prevent the sale and shipment of dangerous drugs like fentanyl, as well as the funding we’ve secured through the Appropriations Committee, will advance important prevention, treatment, recovery and law enforcement efforts.” 

Hoeven worked to include language in this legislation that aligns with the goals of his Illegal Synthetic Drug Safety Act, which closes a loophole that enables bad actors to circumvent the law to sell and distribute illicit synthetic variations of drugs, like the powerful drug fentanyl, by labeling the products as “not for human consumption.” The language derives from the Synthetic Abuse and Labeling of Toxic Substances (SALTS) Act, of which Hoeven is a cosponsor, and which was included in the bill passed today.

The senator has also cosponsored the Synthetic Trafficking and Overdose Prevention (STOP) Act, which is included in this legislation. This provision requires shipments from foreign countries sent through the U.S. Postal Service to provide electronic data. This will empower Customs and Border Protection to better target potential illegal substances like fentanyl and prevent it from being shipped into the country.

Additional highlights of the legislation include:

  • Reauthorizing state grants authorized in the 21st Century Cures Act, with a five percent set-aside for tribes. 
  • Reauthorizing the following programs through 2023: the High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) Program, the Department of Justice Drug Court Program and the Drug Free Communities Program.
  • Funding training for staff at Community Health Center and Rural Health Clinic on dispensing medications for treatment of an opioid use disorder.
  • Increasing flexibility for the National Institutes of Health to research non-addictive pain medication. 
  • Providing treatment and recovery support services for individuals with a substance use disorder.
  • Allowing for 6-year loan repayment agreements with substance use disorder treatment professionals that work in mental health professional shortage areas or counties that have been hardest hit by drug overdose.
  • Increasing access to medication-assisted treatment. 

Today’s legislation builds on Hoeven’s work as a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee to provide strong funding to support opioid abuse prevention, treatment and recovery programs at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Further, the fiscal year 2019 funding legislation directs the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to prioritize efforts to combat opioid abuse in rural communities. 

This is similar to a provision Hoeven sponsored and included in the Senate’s farm bill for the Rural Health and Safety Education Competitive Grant program. Additionally, as chairman of the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Committee, the senator secured a provision in the recently-passed Agriculture-FDA funding bill to interdict illicit substances, such as fentanyl, at international mailing facilities and support rural telemedicine grants to help address opioid abuse.