Our modern addiction epidemic needs modern solutions.
Shatterproof’s research-backed National Principles of Care include provisions like routine screenings across medical settings, personalized and individualized care, and ongoing disease management. Making treatment that’s aligned with these Principles available to every American with a substance use disorder is the most critical intervention we need to save lives.
Shatterproof was pleased to see progress made in this area as part of the SUPPORT Act, but we still need significant change and updates to our federal health response to addiction.
Here are four critical actions that need to be taken.
Making addiction treatment part of mainstream medicine
Doctors who want to treat addiction are forced to jump through extra hoops. It's time-consuming, it reduces access, and it doesn't help our nation's addiction crisis. That's why Shatterproof supports H.R. 2482/ S. 2074, the Mainstreaming Addiction Treatment Act. This legislation will make it easier for medical providers to prescribe buprenorphine, a gold standard medication for addiction treatment, without excessive requirements that restrict access.
In addition, all health care professionals need expanded training in addiction. The Medication Access and Training Expansion (MATE) Act, H.R.4974, is designed to ensure that all DEA-controlled medication prescribers have a baseline knowledge of how to prevent addiction and how to identify, treat, and manage patients who have substance use disorders. You might think that this is already the case, but it’s not. Addiction treatment is currently not a focus in many medical schools, meaning most doctors do not know how to identify or treat substance use disorder, despite the public health emergency that it is. That’s why this legislation is so necessary.
Incentives for behavioral health providers
A new federal law, the Improving Access to Behavioral Health Information Technology Act (included in the SUPPORT Act, the new opioids law), will provide long-overdue incentive payments to behavioral health providers for adopting certified electronic health record (EHR) technology, via a Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation demonstration project. EHRs make patient information available instantly and securely. Using EHRs greatly improves the overall quality and coordination of care, which is urgently needed in the field of addiction treatment.
This kind of incentive is already offered to other types of medical providers, thanks to the 2009 HITECH Act. But behavioral health providers were left out of that legislation. It’s time to stop discriminating against those who need care for behavioral or substance use disorders. Behavioral health providers must receive the same funding as other types of medical providers, ensuring care coordination and improving outcomes for patients.
Shatterproof hopes that this new pilot program will ultimately prove the value of and need for incentivizing EHRs for behavioral health providers on a broader scale in the near future.
Best practices for post-overdose care
When someone has a heart attack, they’re rushed to the ER. After emergency interventions are taken, that person is then given careful guidance for future care. They will be discharged from the ER with a thorough action plan and scheduled follow-up appointments.
Sadly, that’s not the case with drug overdoses.
Too often, people revived from overdoses do quick stints in the ER, only to be sent back out to their lives with no further medical appointments or treatment guidance. It’s a tragic missed opportunity to get someone with addiction into effective, science-based care—before their next overdose is a fatal one.
Shatterproof believes coordinated, personalized care is essential to saving lives and turning the tide of the opioid epidemic. That care should begin in our nation’s emergency rooms.
The Preventing Overdoses While in Emergency Rooms (POWER) Act was included in the SUPPORT Act and will develop a set of much-needed best practices for hospitals to implement when discharging patients post-overdose, including important steps like connecting the patient with a peer-support specialist, providing naloxone upon discharge, and referring the patient to treatment. These steps could make the difference between life and death for a patient at risk of another overdose, and Shatterproof strongly supports this effort to develop and promote hospital best practices.
Increased workforce capacity
If you have diabetes or hypertension, both chronic health conditions, you could walk into a doctor’s office tomorrow and leave with a prescription and a treatment plan. But if you suffer from addiction, finding a doctor is a whole different story. That’s because there are few medical professionals who specialize in addiction treatment. In addition, the practitioners who do treat substance use disorders face unfair regulations which limit their ability to prescribe medication that can assist an individual in recovery.
This lack of access to effective treatment is one of the biggest factors fueling our country’s overdose epidemic. Two important provisions were included in the SUPPORT Act to help fix this deadly problem.
Section 3201 would expand eligible providers who are also to prescribe buprenorphine, one of the most effective treatment options. First, it would make permanent an important provision from the 2016 Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) while allows nurse practitioners and physicians assistants to prescribe buprenorphine. This provision will also expand the provision to additional provider types, including clinical nurse specialists, certified nurse midwives, and certified registered nurse anesthetists, for the next five years. The more qualified health providers who are able to prescribe buprenorphine, the more American lives that will be saved.
Another proposal signed into law as part of the SUPPORT Act was the Substance Use Disorder Workforce Loan Repayment Act, which will help to increase the number of professionals working in the addiction field by creating a program to allow for student loan forgiveness up to $250,000 in exchange for serving as a substance use disorder-related professional for up to six years. We desperately need more qualified professionals working in the addiction space, and this bill will go a long way toward meeting that need.