March 11, 2016
2 min read

Senate approves CARA to address national opioid epidemic, BCHC encourages passage of TREAT

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The Senate recently approved the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act in a nearly unanimous vote.

The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) authorizes $600 million for grants to improve the national prescription, opioid and heroin addiction epidemics. Funds may be used for treatment and recovery services, prison alternatives for nonviolent offenders, law enforcement initiatives and programs to prevent overdose deaths and inappropriate prescriptions.

“Let’s not kid ourselves: addictions to painkillers, heroin and alcohol are chronic diseases just like diabetes or heart disease. We’re talking about a health crisis that dwarfs the Ebola outbreak. It’s physically and emotionally crippling, wrecks families, jobs and local economies, and it takes millions of lives,” Linda Rosenberg, PhD, president and CEO of the National Council for Behavioral Health, said in a press release. “The only way to attack a crisis of this magnitude is for the government, health care and law enforcement communities to attack the problem with adequate prevention, treatment and recovery services. Such an effort takes time, commitment, patience and yes, money. We are so gratified that the Senate has come to their aid.”

Prior to the Senate’s approval, members of the Big Cities Health Coalition sent a letter to Sens. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Harry Reid, D-Nev., requesting passage of CARA and the Recovery Enhancement for Addiction Treatment act.

The Recovery Enhancement for Addiction Treatment act (TREAT) calls for expansion of The types of practitioners able to prescribe buprenorphine.

“As health commissioners leading the nation’s largest, most urban health departments, we have seen firsthand the damage opioid misuse has done to our communities. Together we have worked to align strategies to address the opioid crisis, but local action is not enough,” the coalition wrote. “It is critical to recovery that the full range of treatment and harm reduction strategies are available. We need the federal government as a partner in this effort in order to improve treatment access by remedying the shortages in prescribers certified to offer buprenorphine treatment.”

Currently, nurse practitioners and physician assistants cannot prescribe buprenorphine, even though they are authorized to prescribe opioid medications.

The TREAT Act would ease patient limits and enable nurse practitioners and physician assistants who receive special training to prescribe buprenorphine under the supervision of qualified physicians, according to the coalition.

“We strongly feel that this bill supports a responsible approach to increase prescribing capacity, while ensuring that practitioners are adequately trained and supervised. As public health agencies we have broad support for this approach in our communities and stand ready to implement changes quickly once Congress acts to pass legislation,” the coalition concluded.