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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

Statue of KKK leader removed from side of Tennessee highway

Members of the Fraternal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan participate in Nathan Bedford Forrest Birthday march. Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

A statue of Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest, the first Ku Klux Klan grand wizard, was removed Tuesday from the side of a highway in Nashville, Tennessee.

Why it matters: The move to take down the 25-foot statue comes amid renewed scrutiny of Confederate memorials. Dozens of Confederate symbols have been removed, relocated or renamed since George Floyd's death last year.

New report hits DOJ over lack of police shooting data

Demonstrations followed the shooting of Dijon Kizzee by Los Angeles Sheriff's deputies in 2020. Photo: David McNew/Getty Images

A new government accountability report says the Department of Justice failed to consistently publish an annual summary of police excessive force data from 2016 to 2020, as required by federal law.

Why it matters: The data is crucial for the DOJ to monitor excessive force cases, and used to investigate law enforcement agencies with patterns of abuse. The DOJ can pivot off it to pursue court action to force reforms.

21 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Congressional leaders clinch support for crucial defense bill, debt limit votes

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer passes waiting reporters on Tuesday. Photo: Eric Lee/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Congress has found a shortcut to pass its annual defense funding bill and raise the debt limit.

Driving the news: The House will vote Tuesday night on two major bills — one creating a one-time, fast-track process for the Senate to raise the debt ceiling with just 51 votes, and another passing its annual defense bill.

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