On May 10th, national organizations, including the American Society of Addiction Medicine, the American College of Emergency Physicians, the American Psychological Association, the American Psychiatric Association, and Faces & Voices of Recovery, held a briefing for the 118th Congress, and strongly encouraged a national response to the deadly substance use and addiction crisis that has left no American community untouched.
Congresswoman Anne Kuster (NH-02) and Congressman David Trone (MD-06) appeared at the briefing, which was hosted in coordination with the Bipartisan Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Task Force, and delivered stirring remarks, while discussing their bold legislative priorities. The panel of treatment and recovery experts from around the country was moderated by Mr. Lev Facher, a leading national addiction reporter for STAT. The experts drew on four big, unifying ideas for how Congress could build on the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act of 2018, to help heal and strengthen every American community.
Highlighted remarks from the panelists include:
Mr. Phil Rutherford, COO, Faces and Voices of Recovery, conveyed the need for a paradigm change in thinking about addiction recovery support. He noted that the lion’s share of public assistance goes to the treatment of substance use disorder (SUD), and he asked Congress to consider at a minimum, a 10% set aside in the federal block grant for substance use prevention and treatment for recovery services and supports;
Dr. Brian Hurley, President of ASAM, declared Congress’ next legislative package to tackle the addiction crisis should work towards establishing universal access to addiction medications when clinically appropriate for those who need them and bolstering access to full-spectrum addiction care. To that end, Dr. Hurley recommended that Congress should responsibly expand access to methadone for opioid use disorder (OUD), by passing the bipartisan and bicameral Modernizing Opioid Treatment Access Act; close the the Medicare and Medicaid coverage gaps for SUD services, and strengthen the addiction care workforce – by reauthorizing, bolstering, and maintaining the focus of the SUPPORT Act’s SUD Treatment and Recovery Loan Repayment Program (STAR-LRP);
Dr. Smita Das, Chair of the Addiction Council of the American Psychiatric Association, said that psychiatrists are uniquely positioned to treat the significant population of patients with comorbid mental health and substance use disorders, and asked Congress to be thoughtful about improving education and training for clinicians that treat this population, and discussed the need for ensuring mental health and addiction parity across payers;
Dr. Kelly Dunn, of the American Psychological Association, noted the increasing prevalence of stimulant use disorder and the role of co-use of stimulants in current day drug overdoses, and asked Congress to establish a new safe harbor provision to the federal anti-kickback statute and address SAMHSA grant limitations to reduce structural barriers to the use of contingency management in treating patients with SUD; and
Dr. Natalie Kirilichin, of the American College of Emergency Physicians, asked Congress to help ensure patients’ access to treatment for OUD with buprenorphine, when indicated, in Emergency Departments is as unrestricted as their access to treatment with naloxone, and highlighted the need for clarifications related to Suspicious Orders to ensure that buprenorphine is well-stocked in pharmacies.