Bishop, Portman anti-opioid bills garner Senate approval in larger prevention package

The U.S. Senate on Sept. 17 approved a package of bills intended to help end the nation’s ongoing opioid crisis that included bipartisan, bicameral legislation from U.S. Rep. Mike Bishop (R-MI) and U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH).

The Senate amended and passed the Substance Use-Disorder Prevention that Promotes Opioid Recovery and Treatment for Patients and Communities Act, known as the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act, H.R. 6, on a 99-1 vote.

Included in H.R. 6 is the Synthetics Trafficking and Overdose Prevention (STOP) Act of 2018, H.R. 5788 / S. 3057, which is meant to stop the flow of synthetic opioids in the international mail system. Rep. Bishop on May 15 introduced H.R. 5788 in the House, which resoundingly passed it on June 14 with a 353-52 vote. Sen. Portman unveiled the Senate version on June 12 and S. 3057 had been under consideration by the U.S. Senate Finance Committee.

“Passing the STOP Act is a victory in our efforts to combat the newest and deadliest aspect of this opioid crisis: the overwhelming supply of cheap, deadly synthetic drugs like fentanyl,” said Sen. Portman.

“Senate passage of the STOP Act brings us one step closer to preventing synthetic opioids from crossing our borders and entering our communities,” Rep. Bishop said. “I’m grateful for the leadership of Senator Portman – he’s been a dedicated advocate in the fight to end this crisis.

“This is not just an issue that affects our home states of Michigan and Ohio – families across the nation are being devastated by this epidemic,” the congressman added.

The STOP Act would authorize U.S. Customs and Border Protection to process certain international mail shipments and to require the provision of advanced electronic information on mail sent internationally, among other provisions, according to the text of the bill.

“By closing the loophole in our international mail system that drug traffickers have exploited to ship fentanyl into the U.S., we can help law enforcement keep this poison out of our communities,” Sen. Portman said.

The senator explained that the bill “would give more Americans who are gripped by addiction the chance to live up to their God-given potential.”

U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) is among the original cosponsors of the Senate’s STOP Act, which has 31 additional cosponsors. U.S. Reps. Mike Kelly (R-PA), Bill Pascrell Jr. (D-NJ) and French Hill (R-AR) are among the six cosponsors of the House version of the STOP Act.

“Families are losing loved ones, and in large part due to the availability of these cheap, powerful synthetic opioids – which can be 5,000 times more potent than a street dose of heroin, said Rep. Bishop. “Just 2 milligrams of carfentanyl can be lethal.”

“This legislation is urgent,” he added, “and I’m proud of the bipartisan, bicameral support for the STOP Act. I look forward to it becoming the law of the land.”

The STOP Act is now part of the larger package of bills contained in H.R. 6, introduced on June 13 by U.S. Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR), to address opioid and substance use disorders via several changes to state Medicaid programs and Medicare requirements, among other purposes, according to the congressional record summary.

U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-NJ) is the lead original cosponsor of H.R. 6, which has 15 other cosponsors, including U.S. Reps. Bill Shuster (R-PA), Michael Burgess (R-TX), Tom MacArthur (R-NJ), and Steve Stivers (R-OH).

Following Senate passage of H.R. 6, the House and Senate now will reconcile the broader opioid bills approved in each chamber in efforts to get a bill to the president to be signed into law.