Policy Issue

Policy Watch: New Federal Action Expands Access to Treatment for Opioid Use Disorder

May 12, 2021

Among the many issues exacerbated by COVID-19 has been access to treatment for people with opioid use disorder. The opioid crisis was declared a public health emergency in the United States in 2017, but the crisis started decades earlier due to widespread prescribing by medical professionals and the availability of illicit heroin and synthetic opiates, ultimately resulting in addiction and rising overdose deaths.

Treatment for opioid use disorder includes the use of medications, like buprenorphine, that are effective in diminishing the effects of physical dependency. Until recently, there were strict guidelines in place that limited the prescribing of buprenorphine. Ironically, medical professionals needed more specialized training to prescribe the treatment than they did for prescribing opioid painkillers.

In late April, the Biden Administration issued new guidelines exempting some medical professionals from the additional certification process thus alleviating a bottleneck that limits access to treatment. These practitioners will now be able to treat up to 30 patients without needing additional training. Click here to read more about these new guidelines.

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