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Congressional Committees Examine Aspects of Opioid Epidemic

No fewer than four congressional committees conducted hearings on the opioid epidemic in the past month. On Nov. 28, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform conducted a field hearing at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore on Combating the Opioid Crisis. The purpose of the hearing was to discuss the findings and recommendations from the President's Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis and to review Baltimore's efforts to address the epidemic. The U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) conducted a hearing on Nov. 30 titled, The Front Lines of the Opioid Crisis: Perspectives from States, Communities, and Providers. Witnesses represented academia, state departments of public health, and public safety officials.

On Dec. 5, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies held its hearing titled, Addressing the Opioid Crisis in America: Prevention, Treatment & Recovery. The purpose of the hearing was to discuss programs that have been effective, where future funding should be focused and what new proposals should be considered as the committee works to finalize its spending priorities for next year. On Dec. 12, the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations held a hearing on Examining Concerns of Patient Brokering and Addiction Treatment Fraud as part of the opioid crisis. The opioid epidemic has created an increased demand for treatment and with it so-called "patient brokers" who some say treat people as commodities rather than patients. The hearing examined patient broker schemes and other concerns of fraud and abuse in the treatment industry.