The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee voted Tuesday to advance a bipartisan opioid bill, called the Opioid Crisis Response Act of 2018, that includes provisions promoting the use of telemedicine in substance abuse treatment.
According to Senate HELP Committee leaders, the purpose of the legislation is to improve the ability of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), including the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), and the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), as well as the Departments of Education and Labor, to address the crisis, including the ripple effects of the crisis on children, families, and communities, help states implement updates to their plans of safe care, and improve data sharing between states.
Among the 40 measures HELP approved as part of that bill is a provision that directs the attorney general, in consultation with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary, to issue rules allowing for special registration for telemedicine providers who prescribe opioids used in medical treatment of drug abuse.
Another provision encourages states to share prescription drug monitoring program (PDMP) data with one another in order to help streamline federal requirements for PDMPs, so doctors and pharmacies can know if patients have a history of substance use. Another provision would direct the HHS secretary to send out guidance every year informing providers what kind of information they can share with relatives about opioid-related emergencies, including overdoses.
Shatterproof, an organization advocating for families and patients struggling with addiction, issued a statement voicing support for the bill. Shatterproof founder and CEO Gary Mendell said: “The Senate HELP Committee today made important progress in the fight against the opioid crisis by advancing this bipartisan legislation. We welcome the provisions to establish Comprehensive Opioid Recovery Centers and improve existing state Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs (PDMPs). As the bill moves to the full Senate, we urge senators to continue to improve upon the bill by including provisions to limit opioid prescriptions for acute pain to three days, require states to meet minimum best practices for PDMPs, and incentivize evidence-based approaches to treating substance use disorders. If passed, these smart, common-sense provisions will start saving lives immediately.”
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