A legislative package intended to make improvements to mental health and addiction treatment is closer to becoming a reality — presenting tools to address the nation's overdose epidemic.
Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground, a co-founder of the Bipartisan Addiction and Mental Health Task Force, heralded key measures outlined in the bundle, approved by the U.S. House on Wednesday, including bills to expedite detox treatment processes and expand health care models.
"Mental health and substance use issues continue to profoundly impact communities in Southwest Washington and across our nation," Herrera Beutler said in a statement.
Substance use related deaths are increasing locally and statewide, according to Clark County Public Health. In 2021, 103 people in Clark County died from a fentanyl, methamphetamine or opioid overdose.
Fentanyl, an opioid 50 times stronger than heroin, is becoming increasingly pervasive nationwide, leading to severe substance use disorders, according to previous reporting by The Columbian. Regional organizations, such as Columbia River Mental Health Services, PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center and Recovery Café, are collaborating to promote treatment services.
One bill, the Mainstreaming Addiction Treatment Act, would remove the requirement for health care providers to submit a waiver through the Drug Enforcement Agency when prescribing detox treatment. By removing the waiver process, practitioners can treat patients with substance use disorders more efficiently.
It would also instruct Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services, a branch of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, to educate practitioners on how to address substance use disorder.
The Collaborate in an Orderly and Cohesive Manner Act would direct Health and Human Services to award providers with funding to employ specific behavioral health and primary care service models. Grants would cover the implementation of the new models, such as hiring staff or establishing technical centers, which would be applied in underserved areas where behavioral health issues surpass the national average.
The all-encompassing package, Restoring Hope for Mental Health and Well-Being Act of 2022, authorizes, revises and develops upon programs through 2027 that address behavioral health and addiction care. It will be presented to the U.S. Senate for further approval before reaching the president's desk to be signed into law.