Hoeven: Senate Passes Opioid Crisis Response Act to Further Comprehensive Approach to Combat Abuse

Bill Includes Hoeven-Backed Legislation to Prevent Sale, Shipment of Illicit Synthetic Drugs

WASHINGTON – Senator John Hoeven today announced that the Senate has passed the Opioid Crisis Response Act, comprehensive legislation that focuses on all aspects of the opioid abuse crisis and includes legislation the senator cosponsored to prevent the sale and shipment of illicit synthetic drugs like fentanyl. 

“Opioid abuse continues to have devastating impacts on individuals and communities in North Dakota and across the nation,” said Hoeven. “This legislation takes a comprehensive approach to help us battle the opioid abuse epidemic, supporting prevention, treatment, recovery and law enforcement efforts. Additionally, the bill includes legislation I cosponsored to close loopholes that have allowed illegal drugs, like fentanyl, to come into our communities from China and other places.” 

Hoeven worked on 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 Opioid Crisis Response Act.

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 and expanding state grants authorized in the 21st Century Cures Act, funding the program at $500 million annually through fiscal year 2021. 
  • Increasing funding to the National Institutes of Health to expedite research related to substance abuse. 
  • Providing treatment and recovery support services for beneficiaries with substance abuse problems. 
  • 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), including directing the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to prioritize efforts to combat opioid abuse in rural communities. Hoeven sponsored and included a provision in the Senate’s farm bill for the Rural Health and Safety Education Competitive Grant program which prioritizes efforts to fight opioid abuse. 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.