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Michael Petruzzelli

, National Council for Behavioral Health

Efforts to Treat Addictions Disorders Continue to Grow on Capitol Hill

May 28, 2015 | Addictions | Medicaid | Comments
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Attention to addiction treatment and recovery continues to grow on Capitol Hill. Last week, members of the Senate introduced three new bills and sent two bipartisan letters to the Obama Administration calling for increased efforts to curb the addiction and opioid epidemic sweeping our nation. These efforts are an encouraging sign of the progress being made on Capitol Hill and bring hope to advocates on what can be accomplished during the 114th Congress.

 

A Myriad of Legislation

Senator Edward Markey (D-MA), along with multiple cosponsors, last week introduced several bills to combat the opioid epidemic on multiple fronts.  These bills infuse critical funds into the public health system, establish meaningful safeguards for prescribers and patients, and protect individuals’ access to health care as they re-enter their communities after incarceration.

The Treatment and Recovery Act (S.1410) expands existing funding to combat our nation’s addiction crisis. It increases funding for the Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block grant and creates new programming aimed at increasing access to and strengthening substance use treatment services for adolescents and pregnant and parenting women. This legislation supports a comprehensive range of much needed services for the behavioral health patient population.

The Supporting Positive Outcomes After Release Act of 2015 (S. 1409) ensures continued access to Medicaid for those individuals returning to their communities after incarceration by requiring states to suspend, rather than terminate, Medicaid enrollment for individuals during incarceration. Each year, jails across the nation serve an estimated 2 million people with serious mental illnesses —almost three-quarters of whom also have substance use disorders. However, because many states cancel Medicaid coverage for incarcerated individuals, receiving needed care is often quite challenging upon their release. This removes an important barrier to patients’ access to care.

The Safe Prescribing of Controlled Substances Act of 2015 (S.1392) establishes additional safeguards to educate providers who prescribe opioids to treat addiction disorders. The mandatory education would focus on best practices for pain management and alternative therapies for diagnosing and treating substance use disorder. Additional training and education for providers on these important topics is instrumental in helping curb this growing crisis.

 

Bipartisan Groups of Senators Send Letters to the Obama Administration

 

Letter to the Department of Health and Human Services

Senator Markey and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) sent a letter to Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services Sylvia Burwell requesting further clarification on the Department’s opioid abuse initiatives. While supportive of the Department’s efforts, the letter requested more specific information and guidance on the metrics and measurements being used to evaluate and track progress.

In addition, the letter requested the US Surgeon General to issue a report and call to action on opioid abuse. The Senators wrote that “a Surgeon General’s Report will help highlight the seriousness of this public health crisis and spur national efforts that can assist communities most in need.”

Letter to the Department of Justice

A bipartisan group of Senators sent a letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch calling on her to stop the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) from ending the National Prescription Drug Take-Back Days initiative. Last year, the DEA and more than 4,000 of its partners collected more than 309 tons of unwanted prescription medications at nearly 5,500 sites around the country.  According the letter, the annual day has become an easy, well-known, and convenient way for Americans to dispose of unneeded, unwanted, and unused prescription medications.

The National Council is supportive of these collaborative and bipartisan efforts. We look forward to the continued growth and awareness of these issues and thank cosponsoring legislators for their dedication and support of such an important cause.