WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) applauded a proposed investment by the Obama Administration to help people addicted to opiates. The proposed White House budget would allocate $133 million, including $99 million in new funding, to support efforts to help combat opioid addiction. Brown has introduced legislation to help health care providers to treat larger numbers of patients struggling with addiction. A record 1,914 Ohioans died from drug overdose in 2012.
“Too many Ohio families and communities have needlessly lost friends and family members due to this epidemic,” Brown said. “While the medical community – along with local and state leaders – are working to address opioid addiction, these federal resources will help advance comprehensive strategies to reduce suffering and save lives.”
In Cleveland last month, Brown announced his support for The Recovery Enhancement for Addiction Treatment (TREAT) Act, which he plans to work with his colleagues in the Senate to re-introduce this year to enable more health care providers to treat larger numbers of patients struggling with addiction. Federal law currently limits the capacity for providers to care for patients with opioid abuse problems using medically-assisted treatment.
Under current law, physicians must meet specific conditions and apply for a special waiver in order to be authorized to prescribe certain opioid addiction medicines, like buprenorphine. Further, physicians are legally disallowed from treating more than 30 patients during their first year and are restricted to treating only 100 patients per year afterwards. This has led to long waitlists for medically-assisted treatment and has made it more difficult for patients to receive the combination of behavioral health and medical treatment they need.
As a result, of the approximately 2.5 million Americans who abused or were dependent on opioids in 2012, fewer than 40 percent received medication-assisted therapy for their condition. To help solve this problem, the TREAT Act would increase the number of patients that providers are allowed to treat in an outpatient setting and, for the first time, allow qualified nurse practitioners and physician assistants to treat addicted patients. Behavioral health and supportive care, combined with medication, can provide a powerful combination to give people a fighting chance against addiction.
Brown has led the fight to help prevent and crack down on prescription drug abuse. His work includes efforts to shutter pill mills, monitor physicians whose prescribing patterns are outside the norm, and end the practices of “doctor shopping” and “pharmacy hopping.” Brown is currently working on a bipartisan bill that will increase monitoring of and corrective action on prescription patterns on the part of doctors, pharmacies, and patients. Last Congress, Brown joined a group of bipartisan senators to introduce legislation to reauthorize the National All Schedules Prescription Electronic Drug Reporting (NASPER) Act, a prescription drug monitoring program critical to combating the abuse of prescription drugs.