President Donald Trump signed major bipartisan legislation Wednesday designed to help states expand treatment for opioid addiction, intensify a nationwide crackdown on drug trafficking, and support efforts to find new ways to manage pain without using highly addictive opioids.
At a White House signing ceremony, Trump said the new law, approved by Congress Oct. 4, would “make an extremely big dent” in the opioid epidemic. But critics say the legislation, which calls for roughly $8 billion in federal investment over five years, doesn’t go far enough given the magnitude of the drug overdose crisis.
Among the law’s most significant provisions is one that would allow Medicaid to pay for addiction treatment in large residential facilities and another that would allow Medicare for the first time to pay for opioid addiction treatment with the evidence-based medication methadone for people 65 and older.
The new law also provides financial support to help medical schools train more doctors in addiction medicine, and makes it easier for medical professionals to get DEA approval to prescribe buprenorphine, one of three FDA-approved opioid addiction medicines. It also increases the number of patients a doctor can treat with buprenorphine and gives nurse practitioners and physician assistants permanent authority to prescribe it.
The nation’s drug overdose epidemic killed more than 72,000 people in 2017 and has become a major campaign issue in hard-hit states such as West Virginia and Ohio.