A funding bill that includes a $2 billion increase for the National Institutes of Health along with more money toward fighting the opioid epidemic passed a Senate subcommittee Tuesday and will be considered by the full committee this week.
The fiscal 2017 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill allocates $76.9 billion for HHS. That's a $1.4 billion increase from fiscal 2016. The bump includes an increase of $400 million for Alzheimer's research and increases of $100 million each for the Precision Medicine Initiative, which aims to personalize treatments, and the initiative to map the human brain.
At the subcommittee hearing Tuesday, senators said they were pleased to present the group's first bipartisan bill in seven years.
Chairman Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) said he hopes the NIH increase, which matches a boost in last year's omnibus spending bill, will begin a pattern of increases for the agency.
“I can think of no greater priority than to give hope to families battling life-threatening diseases and to help more Americans live longer, healthier lives,” he said.
Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) said the additional money for the NIH will help spur discovery and innovation that can help some of the country's most vulnerable populations.
“There are other threats facing this country and this bill deals with them—the threats of disease and disparity,” he said.
The bill also includes funding for drug abuse prevention programs. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will receive a $28 million increase for its prescription drug overdose program and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration will see a $49 million increase for its opioid programs and $50 million for treatment and prevention at community health centers.
Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) said the bill is a step in the right direction, but she encouraged an emergency supplemental bill for addressing the opioid epidemic.