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Tonko, Luján Introduce Bill to Expand Access to Addiction Treatment

Measure would add providers & lock in past improvements for medication-assisted treatment

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Washington, September 7, 2017 | comments
“Opioid addiction is a deadly and painful epidemic that continues to spread across our nation. Thousands more of our family members, friends and neighbors fall victim to this disease every year, while just a fraction are finding their way to treatment. We must do more. This legislation addresses the epidemic head-on by empowering the healthcare professionals at the front lines of this crisis, locking in previous treatment expansions and granting more specialist nurses the ability to prescribe the medication-assisted treatment that we know gives patients their best chance to recover.” - Rep. Paul Tonko
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WASHINGTON U.S. Representatives Paul D. Tonko (D-NY) and Ben Ray Luján (D-NM) have just introduced H.R. 3692, the Addiction Treatment Access Improvement Act, a bill that would significantly expand access to medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for opioid use disorder, particularly among vulnerable populations such as pregnant women and postpartum mothers struggling with addiction.

More than 64,000 people in the U.S. died of drug overdoses in 2016, the deadliest year on record. That number represents an increase of more than 20 percent over the previous year. Just one fifth of the patients who need treatment are currently receiving it.

Rep. Tonko: “Opioid addiction is a deadly and painful epidemic that continues to spread across our nation. Thousands more of our family members, friends and neighbors fall victim to this disease every year, while just a fraction are finding their way to treatment. We must do more. This legislation addresses the epidemic head-on by empowering the healthcare professionals at the front lines of this crisis, locking in previous treatment expansions and granting more specialist nurses the ability to prescribe the medication-assisted treatment that we know gives patients their best chance to recover.”

Rep. Lujan: “As addiction continues to devastate families across our nation, we must expand access to medication-assisted treatment and allow nurses to practice to the full extent of their licensures. Advanced Practice Nurses are an integral part of health care teams all across the country, but especially in rural states like New Mexico where thousands of families depend on advanced practice nurses for so much of their routine health care. We especially need to make it easier for pregnant and postpartum women struggling with addiction to get help. Allowing Certified Nurse Midwives to prescribe and refer for MAT treatment will expand access for addicted moms – something we need to do immediately.”

The bill has received support from the American Society of Addiction Medicine, the American Nurses Association, American Association of Nurse Practitioners, American Academy of Physician Assistants, the American College of Nurse-Midwives, the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists, the National Association of Clinical Nurse Specialists, and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. 

American Society of Addiction Medicine President Kelly Clark, MD, MBA, DFASAM: “ASAM is grateful to Representatives Tonko and Lujan for their leadership in crafting smart addiction treatment policy, and we are pleased to endorse this bill. Solidifying into law the recent gains we’ve made in treatment access, and ending arbitrary time for healthcare providers to treat patients, will ensure that we can continue to improve access for evidence based care. Although physicians are providing more addiction treatment than ever before, expanding the addiction treatment workforce to include all advance practice registered nurses is urgently needed to address access challenges and provider shortages due to the magnitude of this epidemic. We look forward to seeing this bill become law.”

American College of Nurse-Midwives President Lisa Kane Low, PhD, CNM, FACNM, FAAN: “Midwives stand for access to quality care for all women, including those who are pregnant and facing the challenge of an opioid addiction. Expanding access to medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is a critical step in helping combat this nationwide epidemic. Providing authorization for midwives to treat, prescribe and refer for MAT services are all within the midwifery scope of practice. This legislation will remove a barrier to MAT for those in need who midwives serve.”

 

Addiction Treatment Access Improvement Act

The Addiction Treatment Access Improvement Act builds on steps taken under the previous Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act to enable clinical nurse specialists, certified nurse midwives, and certified registered nurse anesthetists to prescribe buprenorphine. These advanced practice nursing professionals have similar educational and training requirements as other currently eligible providers and often serve as primary care providers for vulnerable populations.

In addition, the bill would codify a 2016 regulation that expanded the number of patients qualified physicians could treat to 275 while preserving the ability of the HHS Secretary to adjust the patient limit, and make permanent the authorization that allows non-physician providers to treat patients with buprenorphine.

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