Obama Administration Announces New Efforts to Combat Opioid Crisis

NYAPRS Note: At a major anti-addiction summit in Atlanta today, President Obama will discuss a new round of efforts to combat the opioid crisis. Those efforts include:

  • A proposal to double the number of patients that doctors can provide with medication-assisted treatment for opioid addiction from 100 to 200.
  • A requirement that Medicaid programs cover substance abuse and other mental health services on par with medical and surgical coverage, which builds on earlier efforts to require "mental health parity" from employer-based coverage as well as Obamacare plans covering the individual and small group markets. The change would apply to about 23 million people, CMS says.
  • Releasing two new rounds of SAMHSA grants: $11 million to support state expansions of medication-assisted treatment and $11 million to make the overdose reversal drug naloxone more available to first responders.

Meanwhile, more than 60 medical schools have agreed to begin mandatory training of students in opioid prescribing this fall in line with the new CDC guidelines, as a condition to graduate.

Fact Sheet: Obama Administration Announces Additional Actions to Address the Prescription Opioid Abuse and Heroin Epidemic

Today the President joins individuals in recovery, family members, medical professionals, law enforcement officials and other leaders at the National Rx Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit in Atlanta, Georgia. The annual summit is organized by Operation UNITE, which was launched by Congressman Hal Rogers (R-KY). As part of today’s event, the President is announcing additional public and private sector actions to escalate the fight against the prescription opioid abuse and heroin epidemic, which is claiming the lives of tens of thousands of Americans each year.

The President has made clear that addressing this epidemic is a priority for his Administration, and today’s actions represent further steps to expand access to treatment, prevent overdose deaths and increase community prevention strategies. These actions build on the President’s proposal for $1.1 billion in new funding to help every American with an opioid use disorder who wants treatment get the help they need.

As part of today’s event, the President will announce the following Administration actions:

Expanding Access to Treatment:

  • The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is issuing a proposed rule to increase the current patient limit for qualified physicians who prescribe buprenorphine to treat opioid use disorders from 100 to 200 patients with the goal of expanding access to this evidence-based treatment while preventing diversion. The proposed rule aims to increase access to medication-assisted treatment and behavioral health supports for tens of thousands of people with opioid use disorders.
  • HHS released $94 million in new funding to 271 Community Health Centers across the country earlier this month to increase substance use disorder treatment services, with a specific focus on expanding medication-assisted treatment of opioid use disorders in underserved communities. This funding is expected to help health centers treat nearly 124,000 new patients with substance use disorders.
  • The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is releasing a new $11 million funding opportunity for up to 11 States to expand their medication-assisted treatment services. SAMHSA also is distributing 10,000 pocket guides for clinicians that include a checklist for prescribing medication for opioid use disorder treatment and integrating non-pharmacologic therapies into treatment. SAMHSA also will coordinate trainings to increase the number of doctors qualified to prescribe buprenorphine, which will be held in targeted States in greatest need.

Establishing a Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Parity Task Force:

The President is signing a Memorandum today directing the creation of an interagency Task Force, to be chaired by the Domestic Policy Council, to advance access to mental health and substance use disorder treatment; promote compliance with best practices for mental health and substance use disorder parity implementation; and develop additional agency guidance as needed. Federal parity protections are intended to ensure that health plans’ coverage of mental health and substance use disorder benefits is comparable to their coverage of medical and surgical benefits. The Task Force will work quickly, with an October 31 deadline, across Federal Departments and with diverse stakeholders to ensure implementation of these important parity protections.

Implementing Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Parity in Medicaid:

HHS is finalizing a rule to strengthen access to mental health and substance use services for people enrolled in Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) plans by requiring that these benefits be offered at parity, meaning that they be comparable to medical and surgical benefits. These protections are expected to benefit more than 23 million people in Medicaid and CHIP.

Preventing Opioid Overdose Deaths:

SAMHSA is releasing a new $11 million funding opportunity to States to purchase and distribute the opioid overdose reversal drug, naloxone, and to train first responders and others on its use along with other overdose prevention strategies.

Expanding Public Health-Public Safety Partnerships to Combat the Spread of Heroin:

The Office of National Drug Control Policy is expanding its heroin initiative among regional High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTAs) by adding Ohio and Michigan to the effort. These States will join the Appalachia, New England, Philadelphia/Camden, New York/New Jersey, and Washington/Baltimore HIDTAs in accelerating local partnerships between law enforcement and their counterparts in public health to combat heroin use and overdose.

Investing in Community Policing to Address Heroin:

The Department of Justice’s COPS program is announcing a $7 million funding opportunity called the COPS Anti-Heroin Task Force Program to advance public safety and to investigate the distribution of heroin, unlawful distribution of prescription opioids and unlawful heroin and prescription opioid traffickers. These grants will provide funds directly to law enforcement agencies in States with high rates of primary treatment admissions for heroin and other opioids.

Tackling Substance Use Disorders in Rural Communities:

On Monday, the Department of Agriculture announced that its $1.4 million Rural Health and Safety Education Grant Program to enhance the quality of life in rural areas through health and safety education projects has been expanded to include a focus on addressing the critical challenges related to substance use disorders in rural communities across the country.

Implementing Syringe Services Programs:

HHS is issuing guidance for HHS-funded programs regarding the use of Federal funds to implement or expand syringe services programs for people who inject drugs. Syringe services programs are an effective component of a comprehensive approach to preventing HIV and viral hepatitis among people who inject drugs. The bipartisan budget agreement signed by the President last year revised a longstanding ban on these programs and allows communities with a demonstrated need to use Federal funds for the operational components of syringe services programs.

New Private Sector Commitments to Address the Epidemic

In connection with today’s Federal announcements, more than 60 medical schools are announcing that, beginning in fall 2016, they will require their students to take some form of prescriber education, in line with the newly released Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain, in order to graduate.

Full fact sheet: https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2016/03/29/fact-sheet-obama-administration-announces-additional-actions-address