- The Washington Times - Monday, March 7, 2016

A Senate bill to address the prescription opioid and heroin epidemic advanced with bipartisan support Monday, clearing the way for final passage this week.

The chamber voted 86-3 to close off debate on the bill, which received wide support even after a funding dispute threatened to derail the effort.

The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act would help states monitor prescribing practices, expand the number of sites where parents can dispose of unneeded painkillers and distribute more naloxone — a treatment that can reverse the effects of an overdose — to law enforcement agencies and first responders, among other reforms.

It is particularly important to Sen. Rob Portman, an Ohio Republican who faces re-election this year and wrote the legislation with Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, Rhode Island Democrat.

Democrats fumed last week, however, when Republicans rejected their bid to attach $600 million in emergency funding to the bill.

Republican leaders insisted that Congress had set aside enough money to carry out the bill’s policies.

“Just a few months ago, we appropriated $400 million to opioid-specific programs,” said Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican. “We’re glad that all of those funds remain available to be spent today. And now, we can pass comprehensive, bipartisan legislation that will help build upon progress being made in this fight.”

Lawmakers from both parties have sounded the alarm over the proliferation of opioid painkillers and heroin, which affect the body in similar ways and are causing frequent overdoses.

An average of 44 people die each day from overdosing on prescription opioid drugs, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and 4 out of 5 heroin users get hooked by using painkillers first.

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