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Richard Nance to Testify Before the House Energy and Commerce Committee

February 28, 2018

Joy Burwell
(202) 748-8789

Nance to discuss how to appropriately use telemedicine in community mental health and addiction treatment centers across the country

WASHINGTON, D.C.  – Today, Richard Nance, director of Utah County’s Department of Drug and Alcohol Prevention and Treatment, will testify on behalf of the National Council for Behavioral Health before the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Health during the “Combating the Opioid Crisis: Helping Communities Balance Enforcement and Patient Safety” hearing. The Utah County Department provides a comprehensive range of drug and alcohol prevention and treatment services, including medication-assisted treatment for opiate addiction and use.

The Subcommittee will convene a panel of providers, advocates, experts and researchers to learn about opportunities for the federal government to increase patient access to care to curb the nation’s opioid epidemic. Nance’s testimony will focus on specific changes the Congress can make to increase patients’ access to prescriptions for medication-assisted treatment via telemedicine. Currently, mental health and addiction treatment centers are ineligible to leverage telemedicine to offer prescriptions for medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorder (such as buprenorphine) and commonly prescribed psychiatric medications due to federal regulations related to the Ryan Haight Online Pharmacy Consumer Protection Act (Ryan Haight Act).

The Ryan Haight Act was passed to limit the distribution of controlled substances via the Internet and online pharmacies. The National Council appreciates the importance of the Ryan Haight Act. Unfortunately, implementation of the law has left thousands of community mental health and addiction treatment centers unable serve millions of Americans in need. To comply with the law, these centers are asking for additional regulation and oversight by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) so they can provide Americans access to substance use and other mental health therapies via telemedicine, as medically appropriate.

In his testimony, Nance will share with lawmakers how this narrow interpretation of the law plays out in his home state. He will describe a patient in crisis in rural Utah and how one of the few DEA-registered addictionologists in the state must travel up to 10 hours round-trip to conduct the required in-person patient medical evaluation. Not only is this practice time-consuming and costly, but it comes at the expense of other patients’ ability to be treated by the addictionologist. Nance will argue that Congress should direct the Drug Enforcement Administration to permit these legitimate mental health and addiction treatment centers to register with the agency, allowing them to comply with the law and prescribe lifesaving medications via telemedicine.

“The 2,900 member organizations of the National Council for Behavioral Health, like the Utah County Department, will continue efforts to ensure patients have access to treatment for substance use disorders and other mental health conditions through use of telemedicine at legitimate community mental health and addiction treatment centers,” said Nance.

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The National Council for Behavioral Health is the unifying voice of America’s health care organizations that deliver mental health and addictions treatment and services. Together with our 2,900 member organizations serving over 10 million adults, children and families living with mental illnesses and addictions, the National Council is committed to all Americans having access to comprehensive, high-quality care that affords every opportunity for recovery. The National Council introduced Mental Health First Aid USA and more than 1 million Americans have been trained.

©2018 National Council for Behavioral Health. All Rights Reserved.