President Trump Signs Legislation to Combat Opioid Crisis

Nathan Baugh, Director of Government Affairs



On October 24th, President Trump signed into law the “SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act.” This legislation represents the culmination of bipartisan efforts to combat the opioid crisis gripping our country. In an otherwise partisan environment, the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act passed the Senate (98 to 1) and the House (396 to 14) with overwhelming bipartisan majorities.

The legislation contains a wide array of policy changes and is the combination of many smaller pieces of legislation all aimed at different aspects of the opioid epidemic. Majority Leader McConnell described

the legislation on the Senate floor as “the collaborative product of contributions from 70-plus members of this body. Five different committees had a say. The result is a landmark package that will deliver critical resources to establish opioid-specific recovery centers and equip local medical practitioners. It will help law enforcement stop the flow of opioids across borders and increase safeguards against over prescription.”

Despite strong support in Congress, some critics charge the legislation does not go far enough. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), supported the final package but noted in her statement that “Congress could have gone further in providing communities with the resources they need to address the epidemic, I supported this bill because it makes some common-sense changes that will help us in our fight against the opioid crisis.”

There is one provision specifically directed towards Rural Health Clinics in the bill. Section 6083 of the legislation designates two million dollars for RHCs to cover the costs of practitioners obtaining a “DATA 2000 Waiver.” Physicians or practitioners need this waiver to administer buprenorphine as part of an opioid dependency treatment plan.

Physicians or practitioners who are interested in practicing opioid dependency treatment, must follow the waiver process and undergo the required training as described here.

The details about how RHC physicians or practitioners can apply for the grant, including the total amount of the grant payment, will be promulgated in forthcoming rulemaking by the Secretary of Health and Human Services. We expect that RHCs will be able to apply for these funds sometime in 2019.

While physicians groups such as the AMA were largely supportive of the opioid legislation, there are a few provisions that concern provider groups. For instance, section 2003 of the law requires that all schedule II, III, IV, and V controlled substances under Medicare part D be prescribed electronically by January 1, 2021. The AMA opposed this mandate on the grounds that it was duplicative with other federal and state prescribing regulations.

Nathan Baugh,
(202) 543-0348