Earlier this year, Congress sought suggestions from the AAFP and other medical organizations for addressing the opioid abuse epidemic. Legislators held hearings and one senator sent sharp letters to medical organizations demanding action.
Now it is Congress' turn to act. The AAFP and others are asking lawmakers to fund the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act(www.congress.gov) (CARA) that was passed this summer as an initial step to address the crisis.
"As legislators, you have heard the personal experiences of your constituents whose lives have been affected by opioid abuse," the organizations said in a Nov. 28 letter(68 KB PDF) to all members of the House and Senate. "As providers, we strongly urge Congress to ensure that existing and newly created programs have the necessary resources to meet the needs of patients and families struggling with opioid abuse disorders."
CARA, which passed with bipartisan support, includes grant funding to bolster state prescription databases, distribution of naloxone and addiction recovery support.
But several other elements of the law still require federal funding before they can be implemented. These include programs for training emergency personnel and law enforcement officers in the use of naloxone to reverse opioid overdose, programs for pregnant women with substance abuse problems, and additional studies of neonatal abstinence syndrome.
"We therefore urge you to provide the maximum possible allocation to fund not only the grant programs designated under the bipartisan Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act passed earlier this year, but to also substantially increase funding for much-needed prevention and treatment efforts for opioid misuse and abuse disorders."
The law also calls for a national task force composed of physicians and representatives from several federal agencies to be convened to explore ways to develop best practices for prescribing and pain management.
The organizations reminded legislators of the urgent need for action and cited the surgeon general's recent report on substance misuse and related disorders, which highlighted the importance of an evidence-based approach to the problem.
"Public awareness of the opioid crisis has grown significantly in recent months as its effects continue to be felt by more and more of our nation's residents," the letter stated. "Importantly, this greater awareness also highlights shifting attitudes in how we as a society view addiction and substance use disorders, treating them as the diseases they are rather than as moral failings or weaknesses."
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