March 10, 2017

LifeBOAT Act | Bluefield Daily Telegraph

Measure merits congressional support

Eleven lawmakers, including U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., have reintroduced the Budgeting for Opioid Addiction Treatment Act (LifeBOAT Act), an important measure that would establish a permanent funding stream to provide and expand access to substance abuse treatment.

“A major barrier that those suffering from opioid addiction face is insufficient access to substance abuse treatment,” Manchin said last week. “These are people who have recognized that they need help, but have been turned away because there simply weren’t enough facilities, beds or mental health providers in their community.”

The proposed LifeBOAT Act would help in bridging that gap while ensuring treatment is available to those who make the all-important decision to get help. The LifeBOAT Act would establish a 1 cent tax on each milligram of active opioid ingredient in a prescription pain pill to fund treatment efforts.

The bill also includes a rebate program for cancer-related pain and hospice care, and exempts drugs used exclusively for the treatment of opioid addiction.

According to Manchin, funding generated from the single penny tax could be used for establishing new addiction treatment facilities, residential and outpatient; recruiting and increasing reimbursement for certified mental health providers providing substance abuse treatment; expanding access to long-term, residential treatment programs for addicts; establishing and/or operating support programs that offer employment services, housing, and other support services to help a recovering addict transition back into society; establishing and/or operating facilities to provide care for babies born with neonatal abstinence syndrome; and establishing and/or operating substance abuse treatment programs in conjunction with Adult and Family Treatment Drug Courts.

This measure makes a lot of sense, and would certainly help in fighting the deadly opioid epidemic here in southern West Virginia and Southwest Virginia. But Manchin, and the 10 other primarily Democratic sponsors of the bill, face an uphill battle getting the LifeBOAT Act through Congress. That’s because tax increases — even a single penny — aren’t popular with majority Republicans.

Given the horrific toll the opioid epidemic has taken on our region, we believe the LifeBOAT Act is a necessity. There must be a dedicated revenue source available for the operation of substance abuse treatment centers. These facilities are essential if we are to succeed in helping those who are suffering from the chains of addiction.