KETV: Opioid treatment and prevention bill passes Health and Human Services Committee

In The News   Posted by Tony Vargas · February 21, 2024

Taking money from pharmaceutical companies and using it to pay for opioid treatment and response is the idea behind LB 1355. The bill advanced passed the Health and Human Services Committee Wednesday with 40 votes in support and none in opposition.

Nebraska already has money coming our way from national opioid-related settlement agreements reached with pharmaceutical distributors. That money will go into the state's Opioid Recovery Fund. LB 1355 would appropriate $4 million a year from the fund for the creation of aid programs.

Senator Tony Vargas introduced the bill. He said providing resources to those struggling with opioid abuse is personal for him. "I've had friends that have been deeply affected," Vargas said.

He said this bill would make sure the settlement money goes out into the community, where it's most needed. "We are expecting close to $150 million in funds over the next 15 years," he said. "We want to make sure this dollar amount is getting out to programs."

Nebraska Health and Human Services would distribute the money in the form of grants to those on the frontlines of the issues. The bill mentions the Nebraska State Patrol, Health care facilities, behavioral health regions and local health departments.

Each agency looking for funding would need to create a program proposal and present it to DHHS.

In a statement the director of the Douglas County Health Department Dr. Lindsay Huse said she is grateful to senators who helped advanced the legislation and to Vargas for introducing it.

"While it's too early to know exactly what funding this bill would bring to Omaha, we can say that any funding we would receive due to LB1355's passage would be used to continue and expand our ongoing efforts to address the opioid crisis here in our community."

The department recently announced its intention for the Overdose Fatality Review Team to look at overdose death cases to learn how they can be prevented.

Vargas said he also worked on the legislation to make those efforts possible. He said LB 1355 is another way to help.

"Intervention, prevention and really getting to the root causes," he said.

He believes treatment and prevention options could save lives.

"When you have that memory of somebody you lost, you want to make sure you're saving somebody else's life and we have dollars that can be a game changer to make sure we're saving hundreds of lives," Vargas said.

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