Only 1 in 10 people who need treatment for addiction ever receive it, and even fewer receive evidence-based treatment.
Why such a large treatment gap? One reason is that the federal government requires special training for healthcare professionals to prescribe the gold standard in addiction treatment: medication. Currently, less than 6% of providers have obtained the waiver training, and just half of those trained prescribe buprenorphine.
After much debate and public attention, we still need to eliminate the waiver requirement for prescribing buprenorphine, known as the X waiver. Before the prior administration left office, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced it would be changing the regulation through practice guidelines. However, the current administration withheld that change upon reviewing the legal process used for making it.
What does this all mean? In order to address these major access challenges, we must still pass the Mainstreaming Addiction Treatment (MAT) Act to permanently remove the waiver requirement. We need all prescribers—including nurse practitioners, not just physicians—to be able to treat opioid use disorder with medication.
If addiction were any other medical condition, we would not accept that 90% of patients never receive care. With these existing barriers to evidence-based care, plus the compounding factors of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has never been a more urgent need to permanently remove the waiver requirement. By enacting the Mainstreaming Addiction Treatment Act, we will save lives.
Courtney Gallo Hunter is Shatterproof's Vice President of State Policy.