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Photo: Bastiaan Slabbers / NurPhoto via Getty Images

Both the executive branch and Congress plan to take a fresh look over the next month at the still-out-of-control opioid crisis.

What to watch: Health and Human Services secretary Alex Azar told the National Governors Association on Saturday that HHS will embrace medication-assisted therapy (MAT) — transitioning people addicted to opioids to drugs that treat withdrawal symptoms and ease them back into the routines of daily life.

The details: Azar, echoing previous comments by Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, said HHS would be “willing to work to overcome any stigma associated with addiction and addiction treatment, and to treat the opioid epidemic not as a moral failing, but as a moral challenge.”

  • The FDA will soon be releasing two MAT-related guidance documents, Azar said, aimed at improving clinical studies of MAT and developing more effective treatments.

Congress is getting involved, too. The House Energy and Commerce Committee and the Senate HELP Committee are both holding opioid hearings this week, and the House is hoping to put a bill on the floor before Memorial Day — though lawmakers aren’t sure what, exactly, it will do.

Governors lead the way: Azar’s address to the NGA this weekend preceded a panel discussion about best practices to deal with the epidemic.

  • Suggestions ranged from the big and expensive (more treatment beds) to the almost absurdly easy (put Tylenol higher than opioids on the drop-down menu where paramedics choose a drug to administer to pain patients).
  • A group of governors will also be meeting today with HELP chairman Lamar Alexander, the NGA said, and will be testifying before the committee, too.

Why it matters: If your heart hasn’t been sufficiently broken yet by these kinds of features, Time magazine is out with a photo essay called "The Opioid Diaries.”

Go deeper

Updated 16 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Harris breaks tie as Senate proceeds with lengthy debate on COVID relief bill

Photo: Caroline Brehman/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

The Senate on Thursday voted 51-50 — with Vice President Kamala Harris breaking the tie — to proceed to debate on President Biden's $1.9 trillion coronavirus rescue package, likely setting up a final vote this weekend.

The state of play: Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) forced Senate clerks to read the entire 628-page bill on the floor, which took nearly 11 hours and lasted until 2:05 a.m. Friday. The Senate then adjourned and is expected to reconvene at 9 a.m. to debate the bill before considering amendments.

1 hour ago - Health

Cuomo advisers reportedly altered July COVID-19 nursing homes report

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Photo: Seth Wenig/AFP via Getty Images

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's advisers successfully pushed state health officials to exclude certain data on the number of COVID-19 nursing home deaths from a July report, the Wall Street Journal reported late Thursday.

Why it matters: The changes resulted in a "significant undercount of the death toll attributed to the state’s most vulnerable population," the WSJ wrote.

Ro Khanna wary of Biden approach on Middle East

Rep. Ro Khanna. Photo: Cody Glenn/Sportsfile for Web Summit via Getty Images

An outspoken progressive Democrat is wary of President Biden’s approach to the Middle East, arguing it’s like “conceding defeat of the aspiration” to win a Nobel Peace Prize.

Why it matters: A number of members of Biden’s own party dislike his Middle East strategy, as his administration signals the region is no longer the priority it was for President Obama and his predecessors.

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