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Amidst news of the Trump administration transitioning into the White House and constant pundit chatter about a deeply divided country, President Obama signed The 21st Century Cures Act on December 13, 2016.
The bipartisan effort is perhaps one of the most comprehensive pieces of legislation aimed at finding solutions for addiction and mental health disorders. It also provides research funding for cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.
The initiative provides $4.8 billion in funding for the National Institutes of Health, the government agency leading the charge in biomedical and health-related research.
Where Does The Cures Act Target Funding?
According to the White House, the Cures Act will fund the following areas:
- Grants worth $1 billion to help states find treatment solutions for the opioid epidemic
- Significant investment in research, treatment and health policies aimed at serious mental health issues and suicide prevention
- Funding for President’s BRAIN Initiative, which focuses on finding cures for neurological diseases like Alzheimer’s
- Resources that expand precision medicine treatment tailored to individuals’ unique genetic makeup
- Provides $1.8 billion for Vice-President Biden’s Cancer Moonshot initiative to find cures and treatments for cancer
“With its vote today of 94 to 5,” Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) told The Washington Post, “the Senate has sent an unmistakable message that the time is now to deliver on the promise of 21st Century Cures.”
Is There Any Criticism of The Cures Act?
While there is broad bipartisan support for The Cures Act, it didn’t pass without criticism. One flaw of the act, writes the editorial board at the Seattle Times, is its failure to “eliminate a wrong-headed, decades old ban on federal funding for larger mental-health hospitals.”
Prominent progressives, like Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), have criticized the act for giving the medical device industry and big pharmaceutical companies too many concessions with its change in the drug approval processes.
Some advocates of greater government involvement in addressing the ongoing epidemic of opioid addiction are pleased with the act, though. “This act can help create real change for the millions of Americans impacted by the opioid crisis,” the Coalition to Stop Opioid Overdose said in a statement.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that last year in 2015, an estimated 33,000 people died as a result of opioids, both heroin and prescription painkillers. In fact, says the CDC, “nearly half of all opioid related deaths involve a prescription opiate.”
President Obama proclaimed his support of the act early on, so it was no surprise that he signed it as soon as it came across his desk.
In a statement, the president said, “We are now one step closer to ending cancer as we know it, unlocking cures for diseases like Alzheimer’s, and helping people seeking treatment for opioid addiction finally get the help they need.”
It is unlikely, due to broad support for the act, that the new administration and its appointees to key federal agencies, such as the Food and Drug Administration, will dismantle the act.
Still, some worry that President-Elect Trump holds less compassionate views on issues of mental health and addiction, preferring instead a “law and order” approach that’s proved unsuccessful in the past.