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House passes major opioids bill, including Portman portion

By Jack Torry, The Columbus Dispatch

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Washington, September 28, 2018 | comments
The House easily approved a bill Friday aimed at reducing the number of Americans addicted to opioids, a measure that includes a section from Sen. Rob Portman to make it more difficult to use the mail system to send fentanyl into the United States.
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WASHINGTON — The House easily approved a bill Friday aimed at reducing the number of Americans addicted to opioids, a measure that includes a section from Sen. Rob Portman to make it more difficult to use the mail system to send fentanyl into the United States.

By a 393-3 vote, the House returned the bill to the Senate, which is expected to overwhelmingly approve it and send it to the White House for President Donald Trump’s signature.

More than 72,000 Americans died last year from drug overdoses, including nearly 30,000 because of fentanyl and other synthetic opioids.

The bill includes a section drafted by Portman that would require all packages being shipped into the U.S. from overseas to include advanced electronic data on exactly what’s inside the package and who is shipping it.

The Ohio Republican said the “bill will strengthen the federal government’s response to the opioid crisis, and with House passage today it is one step closer to becoming law. Portman said it “will increase access to long-term treatment and recovery while also helping stop the flow of deadly synthetic drugs like fentanyl from being shipped into the United States through our own Postal Service.”

Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, who co-sponsored the postal section of the bill, said “the addiction epidemic has taken too many lives and caused too much devastation in Ohio to become a partisan issue.”

Brown said he is proud that he and Portman “are able to work together to get significant, bipartisan legislation signed into law to stop dangerous drugs at the border and keep them out of Ohio communities.”

Rep, Steve Stivers, R-Upper Arlington, said the House “took another important step in combating the addiction epidemic by passing a comprehensive opioids package, and I was proud my bipartisan bill was included to help ensure people are receiving treatments that are proven to work to beat drug addiction. Too many people have been let down by treatment that doesn’t work.”

Among other Ohio lawmakers, Republicans Jim Renacci of Wadsworth, Jim Jordan of Urbana, Bill Johnson of Marietta, Troy Balderson of Zanesville and Bob Gibbs of Lakeville, and Democrats Joyce Beatty of Columbus, Tim Ryan of Niles and Marcia Fudge of Cleveland supported the bill.

Renacci, who is challenging Brown for his Senate seat, said, “The opioid epidemic has hit my home state of Ohio particularly hard, with thousands of Ohioans dying from drug overdoses every year.”

The measure provides the U.S. Food and Drug Administration with the power to insist drug companies sell packages of opioids in smaller doses to discourage physicians from prescribing larger amounts.

In addition, the bill would allow Medicaid dollars to pay the costs of in-patient drug-abuse treatment.

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