Unanimous vote for bipartisan opioid bill, but will it be enough?

SEATTLE -- The U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee unanimously passed a bipartisan bill to help states fight the opioid crisis.

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., co-sponsored the legislation, which combines more than 40 different proposals.

For those looking for sustained funding to fight the epidemic, though, this isn't the solution. Jason McGill, the health policy adviser in the Washington Governor's Office, thinks it's a good start, though.

"This is a crisis that has taken decades in the making so obviously we can't just rely on one piece of legislation or one budget to get us out of this hole," McGill said.

According to data from the Senate health committee, the financial hole is huge for Washington state.

From 2012 to 2016, the economic cost of opioid-related deaths in the state totaled more than $34 billion.

In 2016 alone, the data suggests the opioid epidemic cost Washington state $9.2 billion.

The economic cost of overdose deaths is 78 percent of that total. Health care takes up 10 percent, lost productivity uses 8 percent and law enforcement eats up 3 percent of that $9.2 billion price tag.

But addiction treatment is only 1 percent of the total cost -- the one thing that can prevent long-term addiction and costly death.

"We really do need to focus, though, on treatment, including what we're doing here in Washington with our hub-and-spoke treatment network," McGill said. "The act doesn't touch that. I'm not certain it should, but, boy, it would be great if we had additional resources."

But when it comes to divvying up federal dollars, other states have it far worse than Washington when it comes to the opioid epidemic. In fact, Washington is ranked in the bottom half of states when it comes to drug overdose death rates.

In 2016, 14.5 people died per 100,000 in Washington state, whereas in West Virginia -- which tops the list -- 52 people died per 100,000.

Although Murray's bipartisan bill does not spell out specific, sustained funding, experts do see a lot of areas for progress in this fight.

It removes barriers to research non-addictive medication for pain, it targets workforce shortages in substance abuse disorder fields, and it demands support for pregnant and postpartum women and infants addicted to opiates.

Now that it's out of committee, the bill will need to be passed by the full Congress and signed by the president.