Most Americans Think Government Could Do More To Stop Opioid Epidemic

A poll finds a majority also believe access to adequate treatment is a major issue.

WASHINGTON -- Most Americans say federal and state governments aren’t doing enough to combat the opioid epidemic, according to a Kaiser Health Foundation poll. More than 60 percent of those surveyed believe that government needs to do more to address the crisis that has seen overdose death rates soar across the country.

Congress has held several hearings on the opioid epidemic. But no piece of substantial legislation has passed both chambers and made it to the president’s desk to sign into law. While President Barack Obama's administration has allocated funding that targets the epidemic, and has published new guidelines on prescribing painkillers, legislators have not come close to addressing his recent proposal of spending more than $1 billion in funding evidence-based treatment.

The Senate passed the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, or CARA, in March in a 94-1 vote. Despite the bill’s overwhelming support it hasn’t inched much closer to passing in the House. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), one of the bill’s sponsors, said after the Senate vote “if the House does not act, then the Senate’s work is a sham.”

When the House still hadn’t taken up CARA a month later, Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) criticized the inertia (and politicking) on the Senate floor.

“The Senate passed this bill on March 10, so it has now been 32 days since the Senate passed it,” Portman said. “Every day, we lose about 120 Americans to drug overdoses. That means that we’ve lost more than 3,840 Americans since the Senate passed this bill. Nationally, from 2000 to 2014, the rate of overdose deaths doubled, leaving nearly half a million Americans dead from drug overdoses.”

In April, recovery advocates slammed the House for what they see as an inadequate response to the epidemic. 

There's a reason why Americans are angry with the government inaction. More than four in 10 Americans know someone who has been addicted to opioids, the Kaiser report found. And of those surveyed, 58 percent said access to care is a major problem.