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Opioid Funding, Mental Health Reform, and Lyme Disease Research Legislation Sails Through House

WASHINGTON, DC – Congressman Bill Shuster (R-Hollidaysburg) helped pass the 21st Century Cures Act on Wednesday. This landmark legislation reforms the way the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves new drugs and devices, while increasing funding for medical research at the National Institute of Health (NIH)

The Cures Act also includes immensely needed mental health reforms, $1 billion in funding for the continued efforts to fight the opioid epidemic, and language requiring the Secretary of Health and Human Services to submit a strategic plan to Congress for improving diagnostic treatment and prevention of Lyme disease.

“This legislation is going to save lives and change the way we cure diseases, and it’s a prime example of what can be accomplished in Congress when we work together,” said Congressman Shuster.  “Our region has lost wonderful people to the opioid epidemic, and I’m going to continue to do everything I can to ensure we are providing our communities with the tools needed to combat this growing crisis. Another issue we can’t forget at home is the devastating effects Lyme disease is having on thousands in Central and Southwestern Pennsylvania. The Cures Act will not stop these problems for good, but it is another major step in stopping them in the future.”

For the 10,000 known diseases there are only 500 treatments. The Cures Act will make investments to the National Institute of Health (NIH) along with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). These investments will go to streamlining the approval process for drugs and devices to assist them in getting to the market faster. The current system is broken, as it takes nearly 14 years and billions of dollars to develop new drugs to fight rare diseases. In order to reduce costs and speed up approval times the Cures Act will make it easier for the NIH, FDA, and other research arms of the government to partner on studies and share data as they work together to finding cures to diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

Another key provision in the legislation was the inclusion of the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act, which was an overhaul of our flawed mental health system that passed the House earlier this year. The mental health reforms in the legislation will make certain that grant funds are allocated to projects that are scientifically and medically sound so that 100 percent of the funds are toward fixing the broken system. The legislation also requires the federal government better coordinate the different mental health treatment programs with one another.

“Our mental health system has failed far too many Americans, and these reforms are necessary to increase treatment options for those battling illnesses while also making it easier for families to help their loved ones get the help they need,” continued Shuster. “My colleague Congressman Murphy has worked hard to fix our mental health system, and I was happy to work closely with him to get this legislation across the finish line.”

Highlights of 21st Century Cures Act

-$1 billion in funding over two years to expanded opioid treatment programs

-NIH Innovation Account receives $4.8 billion, FDA Innovation Account receives $500 million. Also authorizes increased NIH funding for 2018-2020

-Includes Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act

-Requires the Secretary of Health and Human Services to submit a strategic plan to Congress for improving diagnostic treatment and prevention of Lyme disease