President Obama July 22 signed into law the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, S. 524, legislation designed to help stem the epidemic of opioid abuse through education, prevention, treatment and rehabilitation.

In a rare instance of consensus in Congress, the Senate July 13 voted 92-2 to approve the conference report to the legislation. The House passed the conference report on July 8, and President Obama is expected to sign it into law.

S. 524 incorporates several key AHA-endorsed measures, including the creation of a multi-agency task force with a hospital representative that will develop best practices for prescribing and pain management; more stringent pre-market review of new opioids by the Food and Drug Administration; increased access to opioid overdose reversal drugs and medication-assisted treatment; and expanded research and treatment for vulnerable populations.

The legislation would create a pilot program to support family-based services for pregnant and postpartum women with a primary diagnosis of a substance use disorder, including opioid use disorders. It also would authorize multiyear funding for the Department of Justice to issue grants to states, local governments and Indian tribes to be used to develop or expand treatment alternatives to incarceration programs, and train law enforcement officers and other first responders in the use of naloxone to reverse an opioid overdose.

Among other provisions, the legislation would create training programs for providers to test co-prescription for at-risk patients; raise awareness and education around the safe care of infants born affected by illegal substances; and require the Government Accountability Office to track and report on the capacity for inpatient and outpatient treatment for opioid abuse disorders. 

AHA members July 14 received a Special Bulletin with more on the legislation, as well as recent actions by the administration and AHA to combat the opioid abuse epidemic.

Opioid abuse and addiction led to more than 28,000 American deaths in 2014, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.