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Herring urges Congress to remove barriers to opioid treatment

opioid crisis
Photo Credit: Robert Wilson

Attorney General Mark Herring has joined a coalition of 39 state attorneys general urging congressional leaders to remove federal barriers that prevent health care providers from offering opioid use disorder treatments. It is estimated that 2 million Americans struggle with opioid use disorder.

“While states continue to be on the front lines of the opioid epidemic, we still need the federal government’s help and that includes removing roadblocks that may prevent people from receiving the life-saving treatments they need,” said Herring. “I am joining my fellow attorneys general in urging Congress to take these necessary steps and remove unnecessary barriers that stand between someone struggling with addiction and the treatments and medications they need before it’s too late.”

In the letter, Herring and his colleagues outline three areas that need to be addressed:

  • Replace the cumbersome, out-of-date privacy rules contained in 42 CFR Part 2, which set forth strict requirements for the use and disclosure of patients’ substance use disorder treatment records with the more effective and familiar Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) privacy rules.The complexities of complying with 42 CFR Part 2 often prevent general practice providers from even attempting to treat patients with substance use disorders through the use of medication-assisted treatment because – while providers are familiar with how to comply with HIPAA privacy requirements – they may be intimidated by the more confusing 42 CFR Part 2 requirements.
  • Pass HR 2482, the Mainstreaming Addiction Treatment Act, which would eliminate unnecessary burdens on prescribing the life-saving drug buprenorphine that were imposed by theDrug Addiction Treatment Act of 2000.Buprenorphine is one of three drugs used as part of Medication Assisted Treatment, the most effective treatment for opioid use disorder. Outdated and unnecessary federal requirements are discouraging doctors from prescribing this life-saving drug to patients who need it.
  • Fully repeal the Medicaid Institutions for Mental Diseases (IMD) exclusion, which prohibits state Medicaid programs from receiving federal reimbursement for adults between 21 and 65 receiving mental health or substance use disorder treatment in a residential treatment facility with more than 16 beds.

The opioid crisis has been one of Herring’s top priorities. For more than five years he has worked to address the epidemic with a multifaceted approach that includes enforcementeducation, prevention, and legislation to encourage reporting of overdoses in progress, expand the availability of naloxone, and expand access to the Prescription Monitoring Program. He has supported federal efforts to improve the availability of treatment and recovery resources, made prescription drug disposal kits available across the Commonwealth, and won numerous awards for his efforts to prevent drug abuse, including his award winning documentary “Heroin: The Hardest Hit” and its companion website,

In 2017 Herring outlined his recommended next steps for combating the crisis, focusing on law enforcement initiatives, support from the medical community, and recovery, treatment, prevention and education. He is also participating in a multistate investigation into the practices of drug manufacturers and distributors to determine what role they may have played in creating or prolonging the crisis.

Notably, Herring has filed a lawsuit against Purdue Pharma, the creator of Oxycontin, for their role in helping to create and prolong the opioid epidemic in Virginia. The lawsuit was filed in Tazewell County in June 2018 and remains active.

Joining Herring on the letter are the attorneys general from Alaska, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

Augusta Health Augusta Free Press Kris McMackin CPA
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Augusta Free Press