A featured speaker at Monday’s legislative breakfast hosted by Communities 4 Action was US Congressman Jim Himes, who described the 21st Century Cures Act as a bi-partisan win that will help combat the crisis of opioid abuse.
Himes said that Connecticut is toward the top of the list of states in the burgeoning opioid crisis, along with other New England states including New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Massachusetts.
“The incidents of opioid deaths and other pathologies that come with opioids are particularly intense in our region and our state,” he said.
Himes noted that deaths associated with abuse of opioids now exceeds the 30,000 annual deaths from firearms.
“The 21st Century Cures Act was a real win in a dysfunctional Congress and dysfunctional Washington,” Himes said, adding that the bill serves to modernize and fund public health efforts that relate to mental health, addiction and opioids.
In particular, he said the Act provides an additional $1 billion over the next two years in grants to the states for programs like expanded opioid treatment facilities and programs, plus an expansion of Medicaid so states can offer help for people who suffer from mental health or addiction issues.
Also, the National Institute of Health (NIH) received a substantial infusion of resources of $5 million, which he described as a big number in the current partisan environment.
“The good news is both sides of the aisle realized the unbelievable advances that come out of NIH-funded research,” Himes said.
There is an element of the bill that substantially decreases the process for FDA approval for medical devices and other pharmaceuticals that have demonstrated to have a quick or strong effect.
“The streamlined process, apart from keeping things off the market that should be off the market, will also make the US more competitive relative to Europe, where they have managed to streamline their process more rapidly than we have,” Himes said.
The 21st Century Cures Act provides $2 billion to be made available for community mental health services.
“This will be in the form of a block grant, so there will be the ability for each state, and perhaps even each county, city and municipalities to innovate and experiment,” Himes said.
Himes said the NIH also received substantial monies for their innovation accounts which are designed to lead into new treatments and new ideas.
Himes said the $ billion mental health services block grants are also available to law enforcement for programs around addiction, as well as familiar programs such as screenings for depression.