The Republican-controlled Congress has largely succeeded in putting the opioid epidemic in a wider context, while President Trump has largely been left to fight the issue on his own.
The GOP-controlled House approved a bill to ease restrictions on sales of opioids and expand the definition of a prescription for the painkiller OxyContin.
Democrats blocked a measure that would have made it easier for the federal government to help states combat the epidemic by issuing prescription opioids for chronic pain.
And Senate Democrats blocked a bill that would allow insurers to charge sick people more for insurance plans that include coverage for chronic health conditions.
All three bills are now expected to pass the Senate.
The House also passed legislation that would require doctors who prescribe opioids to have state approval before prescribing them to patients who are not on Medicaid.
It also cleared the Senate, and the House is expected to vote on a bill in the coming days to allow insurers and the Food and Drug Administration to allow them to offer plans that cover prescription opioids.
This is an emerging situation, as the opioid-related deaths are a growing problem in many parts of the country, and states are rushing to respond to the crisis, said Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., who has been one of the leaders of the push for federal assistance.
We have the capacity to help in the short term, but what we need to do is really focus on getting states to step up and take this on.
“We’re moving toward an epidemic where we’re going into this pandemic without an appropriate response by states,” Wyden said.
“And it’s going to take a lot of resources to do that.”
But Wyden cautioned that a large number of Americans will continue to struggle with the addiction, and that while Congress is on the right track, the problem is far from solved.
Wyden said he’s encouraged by the bipartisan efforts to take action and is optimistic about the potential for the legislation to pass in the near future.
President Trump has made it clear he has no intention of changing the federal opioid law, which is aimed at curbing opioid abuse and helping the millions of Americans who have addiction problems.
Instead, Trump has been working to strengthen it, including by announcing an opioid commission, which will recommend ways to reduce addiction in the country.
The commission will likely include representatives from the health, education and criminal justice communities.
The president also has been using his authority under the Prevention of Mass Incarceration Act to expand treatment options, including in-person treatment for people who have been incarcerated.
A new opioid commission is scheduled to begin work on Thursday.
Meanwhile, the president is also planning to announce a $1 billion increase to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration budget, which the White House estimates will help states and other localities in the fight against the epidemic.
The opioid crisis has been growing in popularity since the late 1990s, when the opioid pill was first available and the drug-resistant drug fentanyl was making its way into the market.
Since then, the number of overdose deaths among adults has risen to an average of nearly 30 a day.
In the first half of 2017, an average 26 people died from opioid-induced overdoses each day.
That number rose to nearly 30 deaths per day by the end of January, according to a tally by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The crisis has also led to a spike in the number who are addicted to opioids.
In the first three months of 2018, the rate of new opioid-involved deaths nearly tripled, from 14 per day in the first quarter of 2018 to nearly 28 per day.