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SUPPORT Act: Congressional Inaction on the Opioid Crisis

by Landmark Recovery

October 23, 2023
Congress legislating during a session

In 2018, there was a glimmer of hope for the opioid crisis when Republicans, Democrats, and then-President Donald Trump united to pass the Substance Use-Disorder Prevention that Promotes Opioid Recovery and Treatment (SUPPORT) Act. Fast forward to today, and that light is dimming. The SUPPORT Act has lapsed, and the number of Americans losing their lives to overdoses has risen by over 60%, primarily driven by the synthetic opioid, fentanyl.

For the first time in decades, both parties agreed on throwing $20 billion into treatment, prevention, and recovery. Yet, five years later, lawmakers have missed the deadline to renew the SUPPORT Act. This is leaving addiction treatment programs in jeopardy and hampering the country’s ability to combat the opioid crisis effectively.

The US Capitol, where Congress is meeting to discuss the SUPPORT Act

The US Capitol, where Congress is meeting to discuss the SUPPORT Act

Inertia in the Midst of Crisis

Last year, 105,000 Americans died from drug overdoses, highlighting the urgency for legislative action. Despite the crisis’s escalating magnitude, Congress appears to be at a standstill, showing little urgency to renew the law. The prevailing reason? A realization that there are no quick fixes to the opioid crisis—a notion that could be perceived as a resignation to the crisis’s growing reach and impact.

The Role of Fentanyl

Fentanyl’s addictiveness, affordability, and ease of production have overwhelmed prevention and treatment efforts. It has proven to be a formidable foe in the battle against the opioid crisis. Experts and lawmakers have conceded that the substance’s potency and affordability are among the reasons most people with opioid use disorder are not receiving treatment.

The Political Landscape

Political chaos is further compounding the problem. The House is currently without a speaker, causing legislative inertia. Other lawmakers indicate that they’re working on a variety of problems, suggesting that the opioid crisis is not a top priority. Even with the House Energy and Commerce Committee approving a new SUPPORT Act in July, the lack of urgency for a floor vote speaks volumes about the legislative priority given to the crisis.

The seats of congressmen

The seats of congressmen

Missing the Mark

The SUPPORT Act had some positive effects, such as expanding access to treatment and enabling states to use Medicaid funds to cover up to 30 days of services for people with opioid use disorder. Its expiration puts these gains at risk and limits opportunities for innovation in treatment methods. The law’s expiration may not mean an immediate cessation of all federally-supported treatment and recovery services. But it does signal a dangerous rollback at a time when advances are sorely needed.

Public health advocates argue that the federal government should be willing to take some risks, given the scale of the crisis. Congress has an opportunity to reauthorize the SUPPORT Act with amendments that might change the trajectory of the opioid crisis. The scale of the crisis demands bold action, whether or not it comes from Congress or elsewhere.

Time for Action

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, you don’t have to wait for legislation to get help. Landmark Recovery is here to offer evidence-based treatment and comprehensive support for those on the journey to recovery. Reach out today and take the crucial first step toward a better future. Call us at 888-448-0302.

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About the Author

Landmark Recovery

Landmark Recovery

Landmark Recovery was founded with a determination to make addiction treatment accessible for all. Through our integrated treatment programs, we've helped thousands of people choose recovery over addiction and get back to life on their own terms. We're on a mission to save one million lives over the next century. We encourage all those struggling with substance use to seek professional help.