H.R. 4969, John Thomas Decker Act of 2016

H.R. 4969

John Thomas Decker Act of 2016

May 11, 2016 (114th Congress, 2nd Session)

Staff Contact
John Huston

Floor Situation

On Wednesday, May 11, 2016, the House will consider H.R. 4969, the John Thomas Decker Act of 2016, under suspension of the rules. H.R. 4969 was introduced on April 15, 2016, by Rep. Patrick Meehan (R-PA), and was referred to the Committee on Energy and Commerce, which ordered the bill reported as amended by voice vote on April 27, 2016.

Bill Summary

H.R. 4969 amends the Public Health Service Act to direct the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to study what information and resources are available to youth athletes and their families regarding the dangers of opioid use and abuse, non-opioid treatment options, and how to seek addiction treatment. In addition, the legislation requires the CDC to publicly report its findings and work with stakeholders to disseminate resources to students, parents, and those involved in treating a sports related injury to prevent addiction in teenagers and adolescents who are injured playing youth sports and subsequently prescribed opioids.


The United States is experiencing an epidemic of drug overdose deaths. Since 2000, the rate of deaths from drug overdoses has increased 137 percent, including a 200 percent increase in the rate of overdose deaths involving opioids (opioid pain relievers and heroin). During 2014, a total of 47,055 drug overdose deaths occurred in the United States, with more than 28,000 deaths involving some type of opioid, including heroin. Natural and semisynthetic opioids, which include the most commonly prescribed opioid pain relievers (oxycodone and hydrocodone), continue to be involved in more overdose deaths than any other opioid derived drug.[1] According to a recent student, male adolescents who play sports are twice as likely as being prescribed opioids than their peers, and are four times as likely to misuse opioids for recreational purposes.[2]

The risks for addiction to prescription drugs increase when they are used in ways other than as prescribed (e.g., at higher doses, by different routes of administration, or combined with alcohol or other drugs). Physicians, patients, and pharmacists all need to be educated about the prevention and recognition of prescription drug abuse to stop the current epidemic.[3]

According to the bill’s sponsor, “Too many kids and student athletes in particular succumb to a heroin habit that started with a prescription from a doctor. We must educate parents and students about this danger.”[4]

The bill is named after John Thomas Decker, a native of southeastern Pennsylvania and talented Cornell lacrosse player who died earlier this year of an accidental drug overdose. Decker injured his knee playing pickup basketball as a teenager and had undergone multiple surgical repairs on his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). After one of the operations, he was prescribed OxyContin for pain, and became hooked on the pain pills. The opioid prescription led to addiction, then to heroin use and a criminal record. His parents found him dead in his room on January 16, 2016. He was 30 years old and is survived by his father, mother and sister.[5]

[1] See CDC: Increases in Drug and Opioid Overdose Deaths – United States, 2000-2014
[2] Painfully Obvious: A Longitudinal Examination of Medical Use and Misuse of Opioid Medication among Adolescent Sports Participants, Journal of Adolescent Health. Philip Veliz, Ph.D. March 4, 2013.
[3] See National Institute on Drug Abuse: Preventing and recognizing prescription drug abuse
[4] See Rep. Patrick Meehan Press Release: “Meehan Bill Aims to Stop Pain Prescription from Becoming Heroin Addiction for Youth Athletes,” April 16, 2016.
[5] See Philly.com Article, “John Decker, 30, analyst and athlete who battled addiction,” February 1, 2016.


A Congressional Budget Office (CBO) cost estimate is currently not available. However, the bill stipulates that no additional funds are authorized to be appropriated for the purpose of carrying out the bill.

Additional Information

For questions or further information please contact John Huston with the House Republican Policy Committee by email or at 6-5539.