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White House Takes Steps to Address Opioid Crisis

The White House announced a packet of initiatives on Tuesday, March 29th designed to address the high rates of opioid addiction and opioid overdose deaths in the United States and to expand access to addiction treatment services.

One of the major aspects of this effort is the expansion of medication-assisted treatment for opioid addiction. Approximately 30,000 physicians nationwide are currently authorized to treat patients with buprenorphine, which is used in conjunction with behavioral treatment to manage recovery and ease withdrawal. Physicians are limited to treating 100 patients with the drug at any given time, but the White House is attempting to increase the cap to 200 patients per physician through a proposed rule by the US Department of Health and Human Services.

Other initiative objectives include:

·         Providing an additional $11 million in funding opportunities from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to 11 states to increase access to medication-assisted treatment services including naloxone, the overdose reversal drug;

·         Ensuring that mental health and substance abuse benefits are covered for those enrolled in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program;

·         Policing and investigating heroin distribution through a $7 million dollar initiative by the US Department of Justice; and

·         Providing guidance from the US Department of Health and Human Services for federally funded needle exchange programs.

Opioids, including prescription pain relievers and heroin, are the main drugs associated with overdose deaths. Approximately 4,500 Californians died of drug poisoning in 2014 according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a 50% rise from the number of drug poisoning deaths that occurred in California in 2002.

With regards to physicians and the crisis, Dr. Patrice Harris, Chair of the American Medical Association task force on the opioid crisis, said “Changes must start with us”. 



(Source: CDC)

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