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Senate Passes Legislation to Address Opioid Crisis

October 3, 2018, 1:36 PM HST (Updated October 4, 2018, 10:43 AM)
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The U.S. Senate passed sweeping legislation to address the nation’s opioid crisis on Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2018, including measures authored by U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz. Schatz’s provisions would fund new research on non-addictive, non-opioid alternatives to treat and prevent pain and expand the use of telehealth to treat opioid addiction.

“Opioid addiction is a national epidemic, and we need a comprehensive approach to address it,” said Sen. Schatz. “Our bill will use technology to help connect health care professionals with more patients and help providers access the continuing education they need to treat addiction. It also invests in more research to find alternative treatments for pain so that we can try to stop opioid addiction before it starts.”

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The Schatz provisions will:

  • Fund training for health professionals to treat opioid addiction based on the Project Extension for Community Health Outcomes, also known as the ECHO model. The ECHO model has already been proven effective in addressing opioid addiction, having successfully helped states like New Mexico increase the number of physicians qualified to dispense or prescribe medication-assisted treatment for opioid addiction;
  • Give the National Institutes of Health more authority to spur research on the understanding of pain and the discovery of non-addictive painkillers to help treat chronic pain; and
  • Increase access to substance use disorder treatment through telehealth technology under Medicare. The provision eliminates originating site geographic restrictions for telehealth services to treat substance use disorders.
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