Just after the President’s Public Health Declaration on the opioid crisis, the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis released its final report earlier this month. The report includes 56 specific recommendations to help address the nation’s increasingly troubling opioid addiction problem, and focuses on 4 main areas: federal funding and programs, opioid addiction prevention, opioid treatment and recovery, and research and development.
As we’ve noted in a previous post, the opioid crisis is complex and increasingly fatal — 91 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While each recommendation in the Commission’s report has the potential to influence the crisis, we wanted to highlight several that may have a direct impact on health centers and their role in fighting this crisis.
The report makes several recommendations involving reimbursement and policy changes including:
- (33) HHS and CMS remove reimbursement and policy barriers to substance abuse treatment. This includes any regulations which limit patient access to medication assisted treatment, counseling, or residential treatment.
- (40) recommending that HRSA move resources toward addiction treatment to increase the number of addiction specialists, including community health workers.
- (41) recommending that federal agencies revise reimbursement policies on treating substance abuse with telemedicine resources
- (42) recommending that the National Health Service Corp be used more to supply the harder hit areas of the epidemic
It is important to note that even though this is the final report, none of the recommendations are binding without official action from Congress or the Administration. The report did not include any funding for the recommendations, as the Commission believes that those decisions are best made by Congress and the Administration.
We also wanted to flag that the Commission’s interim report, which was issued on July 31, 2017 initially included a provision for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to mandate that every Federally Qualified Health Center provider seek a buprenorphine waiver. NACHC shared comments with the Commission expressing concern that this provision may not be wholly appropriate for every health center and provider, and the Commission did not include this recommendation in its final draft.