Congressional legislators are meeting Wednesday to hash out new rules to fight the ongoing opioid addiction epidemic, but Democrats could oppose any legislation that doesn’t include more funds for addiction treatment.
Wednesday’s action follows a move Tuesday by the Obama administration to help doctors nearly triple the number of patients they can treat with buprenorphine, a powerful anti-addiction drug.
Speaking with The New York Times, Patrick Kennedy, a Democrat and former congressman from Rhode Island, said any bill to help fight the crisis is worth passing.
“How can we just let a number of people die from overdoses just so we can make a political point that Republicans are wrong on funding?” he said.
But others believe that better funding to help treat addicts is key. Gary Mendell is the founder of a New York-based anti-addiction advocacy group called Shatterproof. Asked by the Times whether he could support a bill that was relatively low on such funding, he said, “I just don’t know yet.”
Michael Botticelli, who directs the Office of National Drug Control Policy at the White House, said that both parties have long understood that “without additional funding and without treatment funding, we’re not going to make a dent in this issue.”
He told the Times that it was “premature” to say whether President Obama would veto a bill that didn’t include additional spending on addiction treatment. The Obama administration has called for $1.1 billion more to help treat opioid addicts.
In the meantime, the White House on Tuesday announced that they would now allow qualified physicians to nearly triple the number of patients they could treat with buprenorphine — from 100 to 275. Buprenorphine is currently available by prescription from federally authorized doctors with restricted patient loads, the Times noted.