President Obama presided over a signing ceremony marking the passage of sweeping new medical legislation designed to attack our most serious health concerns. In an unusual move, the measure sailed through the House and the Senate, garnering almost unanimous bipartisan support at a time when the nation is deeply divided on almost every other issue.
The President signed the "21st Century Cures Act," into law at a ceremony attended by congressional leaders. President Obama said, "The Cures Act makes important investments that will save lives."
It was so widely supported on Capitol Hill, only five senators voted against it: Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, both of Oregon, all Democrats, and Senator Mike Lee, a Republican of Utah.
The 1,000-page legislation appropriates a staggering $6.3 billion to tackle America's most serious health concerns, such as cancer, antibiotic-resistant superbugs, the heroin and prescription painkiller epidemic, mental health issues and Alzheimer's Disease. These horrific conditions have touched all Americans in some form.
"We are now one step closer to ending cancer as we know it," President Obama said, "Unlocking cures for diseases like Alzheimer's, and helping people seeking treatment for opioid addiction finally get the help they need."
Pastor Rick Warren and his wife Kay, co-founders of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California, whose son Matthew committed suicide, issued a statement.
"Mental health is a deeply personal issue for us because our son, Matthew, lived with mental illness for most of his life. We are so grateful that Congress passed the Cures Act, which invests in saving lives by addressing the opioid epidemic, cancer research, biomedical research, mental health reform, and the drug developmental process.
"Statistics show us that there are 60 million Americans living with mental illness. The Cures Act takes important steps for much-needed mental health reform and will ensure mental health programs are effectively serving people with mental illness; it will improve access to care for veterans, people who are homeless, women and children; and will promote evidence-based approaches to provide the best care to people in need. In hope of a brighter future for people living with mental illness, we are grateful."
Part of the money will go toward treatment centers for drug addicts and prevention programs for states. "These additional resources are particularly critical in rural areas, where rates of opioid misuse and overdose are high, access to treatment is limited, and patients who seek treatment are often met with waitlists that can mean the difference between life and death," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told NBC News.
The provision calls for hundreds of millions of dollars towards intensifying cancer research through a program called Cancer Moonshot. The initiative is led by Vice President Joe Biden, whose son Beau died of a brain tumor last year at age 46.