The Department of Health and Human Services and the Drug Enforcement Administration have recently been working together to increase access to medication-assisted addiction treatment (MAT). The HHS and DEA are aware that doctors able to prescribe these medications are in short supply, which is one of the reasons they are looking to ease restrictions on MAT.
Due to these restrictions being mitigated, doctors are now able to prescribe buprenorphine through a virtual platform. Along with this new rule, if a clinician is present, including practice providers who are not doctors, the waivered provider is legally allowed to prescribe buprenorphine even though they are not present. Late last year the White House's opioid commission issued a slew of recommendations, one of which being that MAT becomes more accessible.
Although the waiver adjustments to MAT were made earlier this year, HHS is now making sure that providers are aware of the telemedicine options for opioid treatment. Once the HHS realized that steps were being taken to address the opioid crisis, they decided to be proactive about making the public aware. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, in 2017, there was a decline in people abusing opioids and more people got into treatment for opioid use disorder. However, the report also stated that more than 11 million Americans abused opioids in 2017.
HHS has made it one of their top priorities to tackle the opioid crisis. The secretary of the HHS, Alex Azar, has also made it one of his central agenda items. The HHS has released $1 billion in grants to approach this impending epidemic.
For the HHS to have an impact on this crisis, it is necessary not only for the HHS to be involved, but also the Department of Justice, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the Department of State, among many others. The Trump administration must take a multi-agency approach to this issue, which is why so many departments are involved. These steps being taken are a significant advancement towards defeating this terrible epidemic.
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