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House Oversight Committee Holds Hearing on Opioid Treatment

June 21, 2019

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PRESS CONTACTS
Allyson Perleoni, Senior Legislative Analyst
Denisse Rojas Marquez, Summer Health Policy Fellow

The House Committee on Oversight and Reform June 19 held a hearing, “Medical Experts: Inadequate Federal Approach to Opioid Treatment and the Need to Expand Care,” examining issues in accessing treatment of opioids, the congressional and administrative response, and the Comprehensive Addiction Resource Emergency Act of 2019 (CARE Act, H.R. 2569) to provide additional resources for treatment.

Chair Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) opened the hearing by emphasizing the breadth of the opioid crisis in the United States, noting, “More than 270,000 Americans died from drug overdoses from 2013 to 2017.” Cummings also emphasized the need for action on the issue, calling the response from the administration and congress “woefully inadequate.”

Ranking Member Jim Jordan concurred with Cummings’ assessment of the severity of the opioid crisis. However, he expressed support for the Trump Administration’s efforts in addressing the crisis, highlighting “a 34% decrease in the total amount of opioids that pharmacies dispense monthly.”

In a question to Yngvild K. Olsen, MD, MPH, Vice President of the American Society of Addition Medicine, Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) highlighted the Opioid Workforce Act of 2019 (H.R. 2439) as a proposal introduced in Congress which “would increase the number of graduate medical education slots for residency positions in addiction medicine programs” and subsequently asked how these efforts would benefit communities. In her response, Dr. Olsen described the importance of medical education and other health professional programs receiving the appropriate education to diagnose and treat addiction as well as funding to increase the healthcare workforce.

When further questioned by Cummings, Dr. Olsen described that observing recovery from addiction helps medical trainees to embrace their roles as treatment providers. She added that there is a need for additional funding to expand graduate medical education fellowships in order to have a “robust and qualified workforce.”

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