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Friday Jun 22, 2018

AAFP, Others Drive Home Opioid Message on Capitol Hill

Every day in the United States, more than 1,000 people are treated in emergency departments after misusing prescription opioids. And every day, roughly 100 Americans die from opioid overdoses. The opioid epidemic has long been front and center for the AAFP and continues to be one of the major public health challenges facing us.

Here I am on Capitol Hill -- that's me on the far left -- along with colleagues from the American Academy of Pediatrics (not shown here), American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, American College of Physicians, American Osteopathic Association, and American Psychiatric Association.

Today, the House voted on legislation intended to serve as a vehicle for a massive package aimed at addressing the opioid crisis. Representatives have spent the past few weeks passing dozens of bills related to the issue, and H.R. 6, the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act, is an umbrella bill that brings them all together.

The measure passed handily on a 396-14 vote.

The AAFP has and will continue to engage Congress and HHS to advocate solutions to the nation's opioid epidemic on behalf of our members and patients. Last week, the AAFP, American Academy of Pediatrics, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, American College of Physicians, American Osteopathic Association, and American Psychiatric Association released joint principles regarding the opioid epidemic that are intended to inform congressional policymakers.

On June 18, I, along with the other presidents from our coalition, followed up with a day of meetings with members of Congress, congressional staff and representatives from HHS in Washington. In those meetings, we emphasized seven key points from our joint principles. Our organizations, which together represent more than 560,000 physicians and medical students, have recommended the following:

  • Align and improve financial incentives to ensure access to evidence-based opioid use disorder treatment by ensuring coverage and funding for Medicaid, medication-assistant treatment and parity enforcement.
  • Reduce administrative burdens associated with treatment.
  • Incentivize more physicians to treat substance use disorders (SUD). Create a pipeline of addiction professionals to create a robust behavioral health workforce. Expand effective models of care to alleviate workforce shortages and broaden the use of telehealth.
  • Focus on public health approaches to SUD by addressing childhood stress, ensuring services for pregnant women, access to naloxone, and fair and appropriate treatment for individuals in the criminal justice system.
  • Increase access to evidence-based treatment for pregnant women and other mothers to improve maternal and child outcomes.
  • Ensure that efforts to reduce opioid misuse do not interfere with the physician-patient relationship and doctors' ability to help manage pain. Support research focused on evidence-based, nonpharmacological alternatives for pain management.
  • Reduce stigma related to SUD.

H.R. 6 will not be the ultimate answer to this multifactorial problem we are facing. The AAFP recently wrote to House leadership(1 page PDF) to acknowledge the bipartisan efforts that have led to this important first step. However, much work still lies ahead, and it's unclear when the Senate will act to address the issue.

The Academy is urging legislators to include support for NIH opioid research and improved prescription drug monitoring programs in any final opioid legislation. You can make your voice heard by utilizing the AAFP's Speak Out tool.

The AAFP will continue to advocate on behalf of our members and their patients to find solutions to this public health crisis.

Michael Munger, M.D., is president of the AAFP.

Posted at 02:04PM Jun 22, 2018 by Michael Munger, M.D.

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