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Drug-free always in style! Congressman Jim McGovern Applauds Obama Administration Efforts to Expand Treatment and Education for Opioid Addiction

Congressman Jim McGovern applauded the announcement this week from the White House that it is calling for an expansion of specialized treatment for prescription painkiller and heroin addiction and training of medical school students using the newly released Centers for Disease Control and Prevention prescriber guidelines for opioids.

President Obama spoke at this week’s National RX Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit in Atlanta.

“… President Obama announced new public and private sector actions to strengthen efforts in Massachusetts and across the country to tackle the opioid crisis. Massachusetts families are seeing the devastating impact of the opioid crisis every day, and we need strong national leadership to help our communities recover and come back from the brink,” McGovern said.

He continued:

“Prevention and treatment must be at the heart of our approach. [This week’s] actions are essential steps to do just that by expanding access to treatment, preventing overdose deaths and increasing community prevention strategies. With President Obama’s already announced proposal for $1.1 billion in new funding to ensure that all Americans can get the treatment they need, it’s clear that the White House is ready to rise to the challenge.

“Nearly 30,000 Americans died from opioid overdose last year – more than 1,300 in Massachusetts – and the need for action has never been greater.

“I urge my fellow members of Congress on both sides of the aisle to come together to make the serious investments needed to end the opioid crisis once and for all and ensure that every American can get the help they need to recover.”

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BACKGROUND ON THE WHITE HOUSE ANNOUNCEMENT:

Increasing access to a key drug for medication-assisted treatment:

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is issuing a proposed rule to increase the current patient limit for qualified physicians who prescribe buprenorphine to treat opioid use disorders from 100 to 200 patients with the goal of expanding access to this evidence-based treatment while preventing diversion.

The proposed rule aims to increase access to medication-assisted treatment and behavioral health supports for tens of thousands of people with opioid use disorders.

Why this matters: Buprenorphine is an FDA-approved drug that, because of its lower potential for abuse, is permitted to be prescribed or dispensed in physician offices, which significantly increases its availability to many patients. When taken as prescribed, buprenorphine is safe and effective. Existing evidence shows that this lifesaving, evidence-based treatment is under-utilized.

Updating the regulations around the prescribing of buprenorphine-containing products, as proposed, would help close this treatment gap. Learn more here.

Preventing opioid overdose deaths:

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is releasing a new $11 million funding opportunity to states to purchase and distribute the opioid overdose reversal drug, naloxone, and to train first responders and others on its use along with other overdose prevention strategies.

SAMHSA is also releasing a new $11 million funding opportunity for up to 11 states to expand their medication-assisted treatment services. SAMHSA is distributing 10,000 pocket guides for clinicians that include a checklist for prescribing medication for opioid use disorder treatment and integrating non-pharmacologic therapies into treatment.

Why this matters: In 2014, nearly 21,000 deaths in the United States involved prescription opioids, and more than 10,500 involved heroin. Naloxone is a prescription drug that can reverse the effects of prescription opioid and heroin overdose, and can be life-saving if administered in time.

Addressing the substance use disorder parity in Medicaid:

HHS is finalizing a rule to strengthen access to mental health and substance use services for people enrolled in Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) plans by requiring that these benefits be offered at parity, meaning that they be comparable to medical and surgical benefits.

Why this matters: These protections are expected to benefit more than 23 million people in Medicaid and CHIP. These actions build on the President’s proposal for $1.1 billion in new funding to help every American with an opioid use disorder who wants treatment get the help they need.