The U.S. opioid epidemic is a grave and serious crisis. Each day, more than 115 Americans die of opioid-related causes. A new “opioid package” passed in the U.S. House of Representatives last week, however, is taking aim at combatting the crisis.
H.R. 6, also known as the Substance Use Disorder Prevention that Promotes Opioid Recovery and Treatment for Patients and Communities Act of 2018 is seen as a compromise between the House and Senate, which previously passed their own separate opioid abuse prevention packages. The SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act, as it’s being called, is expected to be considered by the Senate in the coming days and then be sent to the President’s desk to be signed into law.
One of the major provisions of the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act applies directly to advanced practitioners:
“Enable clinical nurse specialists, certified nurse midwives, and certified registered nurse anesthetists to prescribe buprenorphine; and make the buprenorphine prescribing authority for physician assistants and nurse practitioners permanent. In addition, H.R. 6 will permit a waivered-practitioner to immediately start treating 100 patients at a time with buprenorphine (skipping the initial 30 patient cap) if the practitioner has board certification in addiction medicine or addiction psychiatry; or if practitioner provides MAT in a qualified practice setting. Medications, such as buprenorphine, in combination with counseling and behavioral therapies, provide a whole-patient approach to the treatment of opioid use disorder (H.R. 3692)”
Both the AANP and AAPA consider this legislation a win.
“With this agreement, Congress has reaffirmed the power of America’s 248,000 NPs to fight and win the battle against opioid addiction. The legislation permanently authorizes NPs to prescribe Medication-Assisted Treatments (MATs), further expanding patient access to these critical treatments—prescribed and managed by NPs,” AANP President Joyce Knestrick, Ph.D., C-FNP, APRN, FAANP said in a statement released last week.
Jonathan E. Sobel, DMSc, MBA, PA-C, DFAAPA, FAPACVS, president and chair of the AAPA Board of Directors, echoed that sentiment in his statement, saying, “AAPA applauds Congress for including this crucial provision as part of comprehensive legislation aimed at stemming the tide of the U.S. opioid epidemic.”
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