Opioid epidemic response legislation heads to House, Senate for final votes

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Opioid epidemic response legislation heads to House, Senate for final votes

Update Oct. 9: Both the House and the Senate overwhelmingly passed the final compromise opioid legislation (HR 6) in late September and early October – sending the bill to the president’s desk for signature this month.

This summer both the House and the Senate overwhelmingly passed their own separate packages of legislation crafted to fight the opioid crisis, the Senate doing so 99-1 and House 396-14. After months of hard work and negotiations, the Senate and House have agreed on compromise package legislation reflecting the separate approaches. The House is expected to vote on HR 6, the compromise opioid crisis legislation, on Friday, Sept. 28, and the Senate is expected to do the same in October, before sending the bill to President Donald Trump’s desk for his signature. The legislation was released on Sept. 25 (a summary of H.R. 6 was also released) and recognizes a role for youth-serving organizations such as afterschool and summer learning providers in youth opioid prevention as well trauma-informed care provisions.

The bipartisan opioid legislation agreement preserves the Senate version’s strong child welfare and trauma-informed care provisions, including $50 million for new trauma-informed care and mental health integration grants for schools. A special thank-you is owed to Sens. Murray and Alexander who supported these provisions and the afterschool professionals who weighed in on the value of afterschool in addressing the opioid epidemic at a Senate Afterschool Caucus briefing this past summer. Areas of particular interest to the afterschool community include:

  • Section 7102. Youth prevention and recovery. This provision requires the Secretary of Health and Human Services, in consultation with the Secretary of Education, to disseminate best practices and issue grants for prevention of and recovery from substance use disorders in children, adolescents, and young adults.
  • Section 7131. CDC surveillance and data collection for child, youth, and adult trauma. This provision authorizes CDC to support state efforts to collect and report data on adverse childhood experiences through existing public health surveys.
  • Section 7132. Task force to develop best practices for trauma-informed identification, referral, and support. This provision creates an interagency task force to make recommendations regarding best practices to identify, prevent, and mitigate the effects of trauma on infants, children, youth, and their families, and to better coordinate the federal response to families impacted by substance use disorders and other formers of trauma. It requires the task force to develop a set of best practices regarding prevention strategies, identification of trauma, community-based practices, and state and-local-level partnerships to support children and their families, as well as specifically including youth-serving organizations like afterschool programs as key stakeholders. This provision calls for a national strategy on how federal agencies can implement a coordinated response, including by coordinating existing federal authorities and grant programs where trauma-informed practices are allowable. The task force is required to submit a final report of findings and recommendations to Congress, relevant cabinet secretaries, governors, and the general public not less than three years after its first meeting.
  • Section 7133. National Child Traumatic Stress Initiative. This provision increases the authorization level for the National Child Traumatic Stress Initiative. Funding will provide technical assistance, direct services to communities, and will support evaluations and dissemination of best practices in trauma-informed care for children and families.
  • Section 7134. Grants to improve trauma support services and mental health care for children and youth in educational settings. This provision authorizes the Secretary of Education, in coordination with the Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use, to make grants to link educational agencies with mental health systems in order to increase student access to evidence-based trauma support services to help prevent and mitigate trauma that children and youth experience. It requires the Secretary of Education to conduct a rigorous, independent analysis and disseminate findings from the grants.
  • Section 7135. Recognizing early childhood trauma related to substance abuse. This provision requires the Secretary of Health and Human Services to disseminate information, resources, and if requested, technical assistance to early childhood care and education providers and professionals working with young children on ways to recognize and respond appropriately to early childhood trauma, including trauma related to substance use.

Overall, the bipartisan, bicameral agreement on legislation to combat the opioid crisis reflects months of work by eight committees in the House and five committees in the Senate. According to the conference committee leadership, the legislation would provide help to communities fighting on the front lines of the opioid crisis and to the millions of families affected by opioid use disorders.

H.R. 6 takes important steps to combat illicit and synthetic drugs coming into the United States, encourages the development of new non-addictive painkillers, improves prescription drug monitoring programs, removes outdated barriers that hamper access to care, addresses the effects of the crisis on children and families, and establishes comprehensive opioid recovery centers.

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