NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—Congressman Frank Pallone Jr., a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, scored a legislative victory when President Barack Obama signed the “21st Century Cures Act” on December 19.

The law, which passed Congress with support from both major political parties, is intended to fund the fight against opioid and heroin abuse, advance medical research in cancer, and progress the efforts in reforming mental health.

Pallone has represented New Brunswick in Congress since 1991 and led Democratic efforts to pass the bill.  He visited the Hub City’s Damon House rehab facility on Joyce Kilmer Avenue in January to celebrate its passage.

The act consists of about $6 billion to be allocated to into different, cutting-edge health initiatives:

  • $1 billion will go towards the opioid epidemic, to aid over 256,000 New Jersey residents who suffer from an addiction.
  • $1.8 billion will be allocated to Joe Biden’s Cancer Moonshot Initiative, which aims to fund medical research in preventing cancer and detecting it at an early age.
  • $1.5 billion is for the BRAIN Initiative which is dedicated to treating, curing and preventing various brain disorders such as Alzeihmers.
  • about $1.5 billion is dedicated to the Precision Medicine Initiative, an initiative launched by President Obama in 2015 to modernize the approach to medicine, tailoring care to the individual
  • about $500 million goes towards the FDA and their efforts in reviewing medical products.

Pallone stated that about $26 million will go towards fighting the epidemic of addiction to heroin and pain pills in New Jersey, which has a disproportionately high share of the nation’s opioid addicts.

Among the other allocations in the bill is funding for the Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey, located in New Brunswick.

Pallone said in a statement that the passage of the act “marks an important step toward new treatments and cures for some of the most debilitating and life-threatening diseases that afflict millions of Americans.”

He also mentioned how the act will be providing more funds towards Vice President Joe Biden’s “Moonshot Initiative,” which is intended to advance research in cancer and brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s.

“The cancer moonshot is designed to try to take research that would normally take 10 years and reduce it to five,” said Pallone in an interview with NJTV.  “A perfect example would be pancreatic cancer where there hasn’t been a lot of progress and often times when it’s diagnosed you only live about six months.”

The 21st Century Cures Act also includes expanding access to pediatric psychiatric care through Medicaid, along with funding for suicide prevention.