VT Press Bureau: Welch hails Cures Act to combat addiction
By Neal Goswami
MONTPELIER — Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., is hailing congressional passage of legislation that will help Vermont and other states combat opiate addiction.
The 21st Century Cures Act was passed by the House last week on a 392-26 vote, and by the Senate on Wednesday. President Barack Obama is expected to sign it into law this month.
On Thursday, the House passed a continuing resolution to fund the ongoing operations of the federal government that includes $500 million in grants to help states address opiate addiction. The continuing resolution will fund government through April 28, 2017. The Senate is expected to pass the spending measure, too.
The Cures Act, crafted by the House Energy and Commerce Committee that Welch serves on, called for $1 billion in grants to states, municipalities and service organizations that are working to fight the opiate epidemic.
“The big benefit for Vermont … is that we got $1 billion that is going to go to opiate addiction and treatment,” Welch told the Vermont Press Bureau.
The Department of Health and Human Services will develop the funding rules, but the Cures Act calls for states experiencing a high incidence of opiate addiction to have priority access to the grants, according to Welch.
That means Vermont, which has led the nation in the effort to address opiate addiction since outgoing Gov. Peter Shumlin devoted his entire 2014 State of the State address to the issue, could see significant resources.
“Frankly, I think that even though he’s not involved down here in Washington, Peter Shumlin gets a lot of credit for it,” Welch said.
The Cures Act also includes new funding for the National Institutes of Health to support scientific research that Welch said has been neglected under Republican leadership in Congress. Other funding includes:
— $1.5 billion to fund BRAIN Initiative research to treat, cure, and prevent brain disorders.
— $1.8 billion to fund the Obama Administration’s Cancer Moonshot initiative.
— $1.5 billion for research and development for drugs tailored to individuals, rather than large population groups.
— An expansion of mental health services.
In addition to that funding, the Cures Act includes two provisions authored by Welch — The Tick-Borne Disease Research Accountability Act and The Ensuring Access to Quality Medicaid Providers Act.
Welch said the tick provision will help Vermonters suffering from Lyme Disease and other ailments by developing best practices for treatment. He said he worked with Rep. Chris Gibson, R-N.Y., on the bill.
“I hear from people that are really suffering badly from Lyme disease,” Welch said.
The Medicaid provision is intended to help reduce fraud and abuse in the Medicaid program.