Legislation introduced by U.S. Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D-VA) that would expand research into the prevention and treatment of opioid addiction was signed into law on Thursday.
The legislation, the Expanding Findings for Federal Opioid Research and Treatment (EFFORT) Act, was passed by the House and Senate at the end of last year. Wexton’s bill was co-sponsored by Rep. Jim Baird (R-IN). A companion bill was introduced by Sens. Chris Coons (D-DE) and Cory Gardner (R-CO).
“While much of our attention is focused on the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the opioid addiction crisis continues to ravage our communities,” Wexton said. “In fact, the crisis has gotten worse. Virginia is seeing a record number of fatal overdoses this year as isolation and anxiety brought on by COVID add new challenges for those who are in recovery. We need to vigorously study and treat addiction like the disease that it is. Once this bill is signed into law, scientists and researchers can provide us with greater resources to end this crisis.”
The EFFORT Act will expand research into the prevention and treatment of opioid addiction while promoting collaboration and interdisciplinary efforts and closing existing gaps in research. The bill directs the National Science Foundation to support research that will further understand the science of opioid addiction.
Last year is expected to be the worst year for fatal drug overdose deaths in the United States, as well as in Wexton’s home state of Virginia. Her state is on track to surpass 2,000 overdose death in 2020, exceeding the 1,626 overdose deaths in 2019.
“We have lost hundreds of lives here in the Northern Shenandoah Valley to the opioid epidemic. The effects of this public health crisis have been seen in the number of children in foster care, babies born substance exposed, and grandparents now raising their grandchildren. The Northern Shenandoah Valley Substance Abuse Coalition supports the EFFORT Act and is proud to see it pass through the House and Senate because research will help to decrease preventable deaths caused by opioid overdoses and will drive better treatment approaches,” said Lauren Cummings, executive director of the Northern Shenandoah Valley Substance Abuse Coalition.