House aims at campaign-season bills battling opioid abuse

Associated Press


The House dove Tuesday into a two-week vote-a-thon on dozens of bills aimed at opioid abuse, as lawmakers try to tackle a crisis that’s killing tens of thousands a year and to score a popular win they can tout for the midterm elections.

A handful of the measures are contentious, including one Republican bill that would create new criminal penalties for making or trafficking certain synthetic drugs containing fentanyl. That opioid can be made illegally and is taking a growing toll. Democrats complain the legislation would give the government unfettered power to decide which drugs would be banned, without scientific input.

Most of the 39 bills scheduled for votes this week and dozens more next week are modest and also bipartisan – testament to the deadly toll the problem is inflicting in urban Democratic and rural Republican areas alike. They include one allowing the government to repay up to $250,000 in student loans for some drug treatment workers who agree to serve in areas with especially severe problems. Others would prod health-care providers to prominently display in their records when a patient has substance-abuse problems and create grants to help hospitals open opioid treatment centers with a wide range of services.

Meanwhile, Ohio’s Democratic attorney general candidate is facing a potential conflict of interest that could affect his ability to prosecute the pharmaceutical industry in the state’s opioid crisis lawsuit if he’s elected. An Associated Press review finds former U.S. Attorney Steven Dettelbach has professional ties to a lawyer for one of five drugmakers Republican Attorney General Mike DeWine sued last year, alleging the industry was complicit in the addictions epidemic.

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