Congressional Bills Target Patient Care Access, Opioid Treatment

The legislation would improve patient care access and access to medication assisted treatment for opioid use disorder.

– Bipartisan legislation in the House of Representatives and Senate would abolish administrative barriers that keep some providers from prescribing medication assisted treatment, thus expanding patient care access and treatment for substance used disorder (SUD).

The Mainstreaming Addiction Treatment (MAT) Act would specifically get rid of requirements that state prescribers must obtain a waiver from the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) to prescribe buprenorphine, a key substance used in medication assisted treatment.

Additionally, the legislation would require the Secretary of the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) to create a national provider education campaign informing providers of the change in medication assisted treatment policy and encouraging them to integrate addiction treatment into their care offerings.

The legislation has been introduced into both the House and Senate, gaining bipartisan approval. House bill co-sponsors include Representatives Paul Tonko (D-NY), Antonio Delgado (D-NY), Ben Ray Lujan (DNM), Ted Budd (R-NC), Elise Stefanik (R-NY), Mike Turner (R-OH). In the Senate, Congresswomen Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) sponsor the bill.

“Medication-assisted treatment is the gold standard for treating substance use disorder, and we need to break down the barriers that prevent more health care providers from treating patients in need,” Hassan said in a statement on her website. “I urge my colleagues in the Senate to support this commonsense, bipartisan measure in order to expand access to buprenorphine and help more people get on the road to recovery.”

It is ironic that providers can prescribe opioids but cannot freely prescribe medications used to treat opioid use disorder, Murkowski pointed out in a statement.

“By removing barriers to life-saving medication-assisted treatments that have been clinically proven to help patients safely reduce or even end their dependence on opioids, we can ensure Americans struggling with substance abuse have access to the treatment they need to fully recover,” she said.

The bill will also have positive implications for patients living in rural regions who often struggle with geographic barriers in place between them and physicians.

“This bill also addresses some of the geographical challenges that many face in Alaska, by allowing community health aides and practitioners to offer MAT working with a provider through telemedicine. Overcoming addiction is already difficult enough,” Murkowski said. “I’m proud to support this effort to increase access to recovery services and save lives.”

Passing such legislation will be critical to quelling the nation’s opioid epidemic, according to Representative Paul Tonko. Over 70,000 people died from an opioid overdose in 2017, he reported in a fact sheet about the House version of the bill. Meanwhile, only about one in five individuals are receiving the opioid treatment they need right now.

“The devastation of America’s opioid crisis has touched every part of our country, and access to treatment is a matter of life and death,” Tonko said. “Our national response needs to rise to meet the unprecedented scale of this crisis.”

Industry efforts to address the opioid epidemic stretch beyond Congress. Earlier this week, United Health Foundation announced a partnership with the Helen Ross McNabb Center and the University of Tennessee Medical Center to expand patient access to behavioral health providers.

The $1.05 million grant will allow the Helen Ross McNabb Center to expand the University of Tennessee’s emergency department services catered toward substance use treatment.

Specifically, the grant will help the Center drive patient education among those presenting in the ED with substance use disorder, refer at least 250 patients to outpatient treatment centers per year, and hire addiction specialists to work within the ED to consult on patients.

“Every day we see the devastating effects of substance abuse and addiction on East Tennesseans,” said Jerry Vagnier, president and CEO of the Helen Ross McNabb Center. “We are grateful to have a partner like the United Health Foundation to help us expand the reach of our resources and services to meet the needs of our neighbors and their families. Together we will improve the lives of the people we serve.”

7 Responses

  1. I get so angry with the pushing of Suboxone. Only fifty percent of those with SUD even opt to even try it and those that do, often don’t stay on it. The push for this drug often leaves that info out. The reason the abusers don’t like it is because they have to wait in order to get the illicit opioids out of their system. The recommendation is seven days, definitely not what an addict wants to endure. Poor bsbies! Even though the Naloxone in the drug is meant to prevent a high from the Buprenorphine and with opioids already in their system, taking Suboxone will facilitate a rapid crash the user wants to avoid. It’s ‘success’ rate only exists in the minds of people like Kolodny and PROP.

  2. As long as CPP’s don’t get lumped into this… let them have it. I gladly support ALL patients getting whatever is medically necessary for their situation. BUT… suboxone is NOT medically necessary for MOST cpp patients, and we should not be forced to take it in replace of a medication working well for us!!

  3. Still seeing the 70,000 OPIOID OD STAT!

  4. Why is everyone trying to save the addict that wishes to destroy their own lives and nothing for those of us trying to live? We are certainly living in the last days in this half ass backwards world we’re living in!

  5. Is “SUD” even defined in medical terms?

    Watch out for the trend to conflate “MAT” with “Suboxone”,….only! Check who owns shares in it.

  6. Suboxone is an addictive drug that is harder to get off than HEROIN but I guess that’s ok?? After an addict detoxes the worst is over for them but for cpp the worst has just begun!! Why are we treated like “addicts” yet dropped like hot potatoes when it comes to appropriate treatment for our issues??

    • Connie; I SO am with you! Someone has gotta be making shiploads of $$$$ off suboxone. And I am SO sick of being way below heroin addicts on the scale of “who gets treated.” Them; yes yes yes!! Us; NO WAY! I’d probably be a lot less sick if I wasn’t sitting on a boiling cauldron of rage about this criminal national insanity

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