Brooks introduces bipartisan bill to brace America’s poison control centers against opioid epidemic
U.S. Rep. Susan Brooks (R-IN) has proposed bipartisan legislation that would reinforce federal support for the nation’s poison control centers, which she says are at the frontlines in helping end America’s opioid crisis.
“In one month alone, there were 9,039 opioid exposures reported to poison control centers nationwide,” Rep. Brooks said. “Since 2011, poison control centers have been working behind the scenes to fight against the opioid epidemic and have handled about 500,000 cases of opioid misuse and abuse — that’s approximately 192 cases per day, every day.”
The Poison Center Network Enhancement Act of 2018, H.R. 5329, which Rep. Brooks introduced on March 19, would reauthorize and enhance the national poison control center toll-free hotline, nationwide public awareness campaign and grant program, among other purposes, according to the congressional record summary. U.S. Reps. Joe Barton (R-TX), Eliot Engel (D-NY), and Diana DeGette (D-CO) joined Brooks in introducing H.R. 5329. The members all serve on the U.S. Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health.
H.R. 5329 would amend the Public Health Service Act to clarify that poison control centers could be utilized for assistance during public health emergencies and to assist in response and preparedness events.
“Poison control centers save countless lives, prevent toxic exposure and poisoning injury, and reduce billions of dollars in unnecessary healthcare costs,” Rep. Brooks said. “The data poison centers collect can even be used to identify hotspots for opioid misuse and overdose.”
Additionally, H.R. 5329 proposes establishing text-messaging capabilities; requests the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) cooperate with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to ensure calls to the toll-free number are properly routed; and would call on HHS to implement systems to route calls based on location to expedite responses, according to information provided by Brooks’ staff.
“I am proud to introduce a bill with my colleagues on the Energy and Commerce Committee that will help those who find themselves in an emergency situation by enhancing the centers within the National Poison Data System that offer free, confidential, expert medical advice 24-hours-a-day, seven days a week,” said Brooks.
A discussion draft of H.R. 5329 was made available during the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health’s two days of hearings last week entitled, Combating the Opioid Crisis: Prevention and Public Health Solutions, held on March 21 and 22. The hearings included a review of the bill, according to Brooks’ staff.
In supporting the proposed measure, Rep. Engel said the poison control center’s national toll-free number — (800) 222-1222 – is “an essential resource” for all Americans, particularly for parents, “who can take solace in the fact that there are 55 poison centers across the United States” operating around the clock, 365 days a year. “Poison centers offer real-time, lifesaving assistance, while at the same time saving hundreds of millions in federal dollars,” Engel said.
In fact, poison control centers help reduce annual health care costs in the United States by more than $1.8 billion, said Rep. Barton, adding that the centers help prevent unnecessary hospital visits and assist first responders and hospital personnel by recognizing and detecting drug abuse. “Additionally, they provide real-time data on opioid misuse to federal agencies,” Barton added.
Poison control centers “are often the first place people call in case of an overdose. It makes sense to give them more and better resources to do their vital work,” said Rep. DeGette.
H.R. 5329 has been referred to the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee.