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Big Cities Health Coalition Applauds Senate for Passing CARA, But Says More Needed to Address Opioid Epidemic Across the Country
WASHINGTON, D.C –The Big Cities Health Coalition (BCHC) today thanked the Senate for passing the “Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act” (CARA), which directs resources to prevention, treatment, and recovery, in response to the national opioid abuse epidemic. The group also sent a letter from their membership to Senate leadership urging consideration and passage of “The Recovery Enhancement for Addiction Treatment” (TREAT) Act, (S.1455) to expand the types of practitioners who are able to prescribe buprenorphine, a medication designed to treat opioid addiction and prevent death due to overdose.
The Coalition consists of the 28 largest, most urban public health departments in the country, representing approximately 1 in 6 Americans. These local health departments are on the front lines of the opioid epidemic. They work to save lives every day through partnerships with physicians and law enforcement to prevent opioid-related overdoses, increase provider education, and expand access to treatment.
“We thank the U.S. Senate for passing CARA and urge the U.S. House of Representatives to consider this essential legislation expeditiously. Our members see firsthand the devastating impact of opioid misuse and abuse in their communities,” said Chrissie Juliano, MPP, Director of BCHC. “These health departments have worked on innovative strategies for years now to address this crisis, but these activities are simply not enough without additional support. Federal action and dollars are needed to insure that a full range of treatment and harm reduction strategies are available in communities across the country. TREAT, in particular, would empower more prescribers to legally offer medication-assisted treatment.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, opioid overdose deaths increased by 14 percent in 2014, the most recent year for which data is available. Since 2000, overdose deaths have claimed the lives of half a million Americans, even though overdose deaths and other consequences of opioid misuse are preventable.
Medication-assisted treatment, including buprenorphine, is the most effective way to treat opioid addiction. This medication reduces death from opioids, drug use, and crime, and, most importantly, helps individuals regain their ability to participate in their communities, families, and workplaces.
Although nurse practitioners and physician assistants can prescribe addictive opioid medications, they are not permitted under federal law to prescribe the very drug - buprenorphine – needed for the treatment of opioid addiction. This limitation impedes successful partnerships between primary care physicians, nurse practitioners and physician assistants in the treatment of addiction, and hampers access to buprenorphine. Building on these strong partnerships between physician and non-physician providers is vital in expanding access to effective treatment.
The TREAT Act, authored by Senator Edward Markey (D-MA) would responsibly relax patient limits and allow nurse practitioners and physician assistants who receive specialized training to prescribe buprenorphine under the supervision of qualified physicians.
The Big Cities Health Coalition (BCHC) is a forum for the leaders of America’s largest metropolitan health departments to exchange strategies and jointly address issues to promote and protect the health and safety of their residents. Collectively, BCHC member jurisdictions directly impact more than 54 million people, or one in six Americans. The Big Cities Health Coalition is an independent project of the National Association of City and County Health Officials. For more information, please visit www.bigcitieshealth.org.