Today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Rural Opioid Abuse Prevention Act, which was originally introduced by U.S. Reps. Randy Feenstra (R-Hull) and Conor Lamb (D-PA). U.S. Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Jon Ossoff (D-GA) introduced it in the Senate where it passed unanimously. The bill now heads to the President’s desk to be signed into law.
This legislation would authorize a pilot program at the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to assist rural communities with developing local programs that help reduce opioid abuse and overdoses while providing first responders with additional tools to save lives.
“I am proud that the Rural Opioid Abuse Prevention Act – which I introduced with my colleague Conor Lamb – passed the House and will soon be signed into law. This important, bipartisan bill will help the most vulnerable in our rural communities recover from addiction and provide our first responders with the support they need to save lives,” said Rep. Feenstra. “In 2021 alone, nearly 100,000 Americans died from a drug overdose. That is unacceptable, and I’m encouraged that this legislation will help prevent opioid abuse and overdoses in rural America and nationwide.”
“The opioid epidemic has affected every community across the country, including western Pennsylvania,” said Rep. Lamb. “This crisis has been especially devastating in rural areas. This commonsense legislation will enable rural communities to implement evidence-based solutions and promising practices that utilize the unique assets of their communities to help combat this issue.”
“Today’s passage of the Rural Opioid Abuse Prevention Act is a critical step forward in our ongoing effort to curb the opioid crisis,” said Senator Grassley. “Our bill will help communities in Iowa and across the country prevent and handle any surge in opioid overdoses. I urge President Biden to sign this bipartisan legislation into law quickly to help prevent cases of opioid overdose and addiction.”
The Rural Opioid Abuse Prevention Act provides resources to help rural communities combat opioid overdoses with the following provisions:
- The legislation codifies a DOJ program, the Rural Responses to the Opioid Epidemic Initiative, which provides grants to rural communities to help them combat opioid overdoses. The goal of the program is to reduce opioid overdose deaths in high-risk communities and provide alternatives to incarceration;
- The Rural Responses to the Opioid Epidemic Initiative currently supports 21 sites in rural communities to help them: (1) undertake a six-month planning phase, during which the site will identify current gaps in prevention, treatment, and recovery services for individuals who interact with the criminal justice system within the target rural service area, and (2) undertake an 18-month implementation phase, during which the site will take on new efforts to address the opioid crisis in that community; and
- Applicants eligible to participate in the program include (1) local governments, and (2) non-profit and for-profit organizations with a documented history of providing services to rural communities or regions highly impacted by substance use disorder.