New Legislation to Fight Opioid Epidemic

In September, President Trump signed the Substance Use-Disorder Prevention that Promotes Opioid Recovery and Treatment (SUPPORT) for Patients and Communities Act. The widely supported bipartisan legislation amps up federal efforts to curb the opioid crisis through a series of measures addressing different aspects of the opioid epidemic, including prevention, treatment and recovery. Among its many measures, it boosts access to addiction treatment, including lifting some restrictions that previously made it challenging for Medicare and Medicaid to pay for addiction treatment. It also seeks to increase law enforcement capacity and combat the overprescription of opioids. Some notable provisions are as follows:

  • Residential Treatment. The act removes a rule prohibiting Medicaid from covering patients with substance abuse disorders who were receiving treatment in a mental health facility with more than 16 beds. The legislation allows for reimbursement for up to 30 days of residential treatment coverage for substance use disorder.
  • Expands access to medication-assisted treatment (MAT).  The act permits Medicare coverage of methadone - a Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved medication for opioid use disorder.
  • Extends the ability to prescribe buprenorphine. The act authorizes physician assistants, nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists, certified registered nurse anesthetists, and certified nurse midwives to prescribe buprenorphine - another FDA-approved medication for opioid use disorder. The measure also raises federal limits on the number of patients each provider can treat with buprenorphine.
  • Research. Reauthorizes funding under the 21st Century Cures Act to use for high impact cutting-edge research projects that respond to public health threats, including the opioid crisis and finding new, non-addictive drugs for pain management. It also gives states more flexibility in using state opioid response grants.
  • First responders. Expands an overdose reversal grant program for first responders to include training on safety around fentanyl, carfentanil, and other dangerous licit and illicit drugs.
  • Patient records. Calls for inclusion of opioid addiction history in patient records as well as the development and dissemination of model training programs for properly handling substance use disorder patient records.
  • Grant program for comprehensive recover centers. The centers would include housing and job training, as well as mental and physical health care. They may use the ECHO (Extension for Community Health Outcomes) model, which supports care coordination and services delivery through technology.

For a comprehensive section-by-section synopsis of the 660-page SUPPORT Act, check out the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s bill summary.