Murphy praises expanded access to opioid addiction treatment

Easton Courier

As Connecticut and the nation continue to be ravaged by the growing opioid and heroin addiction epidemic, U.S. Senator Chris Murphy applauded the Obama Administration and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on Wednesday after they announced new steps to combat the epidemic.

Specifically, HHS issued a final rule to increase the number of patients that qualified physicians can provide buprenorphine to from 100 to 275 patients. The new rule will greatly expand the ability of addiction medical specialists and other trained medical professionals to provide life-saving medication-assisted therapies.

HHS’s announcement comes after Murphy urged the Department to take all necessary steps to ensure that those seeking treatment for addiction have greater access to medication-assisted treatment.

Murphy also recently joined U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal and a bipartisan group of 22 senators last month in calling on HHS to increase the number of patients practitioners can treat with buprenorphine.

“HHS took an important step today by nearly tripling the number of patients that can receive life-saving buprenorphine treatment,” said Murphy. “The opioid and heroin epidemic in Connecticut is one of the worst public health and safety crises our state has ever faced. Today’s action will offer some real, tangible relief to individuals looking to turn their lives around. Now is the time for Congress to step up to the plate and do its part to stem this epidemic.”

In addition to expanding access to medication-assisted treatment, the Obama administration also announced new actions to improve prescription drug monitoring by federal prescribers, advance prescriber education, encourage safe pain management, accelerate research on opioid misuse and overdose, expand telemedicine, improve housing support for those in recovery, and encourage the safe disposal of unneeded prescription opioids.

After the U.S. House of Representatives passed comprehensive mental health reform by a vote of 422 to 2 on Wednesday, Murphy and U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy, co-authors of the Mental Health Reform Act and members of the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, called on the Senate to immediately vote on their comprehensive, bipartisan Mental Health Reform Act. The bill, which would address the country’s mental health crisis and help ensure Americans suffering from mental illness and substance use disorders receive the care they need, passed the Senate HELP Committee earlier this year.

“The House took an important step today to expand treatment and prevention programs for the 44 million Americans battling mental illness,” said Murphy and Cassidy. “The bill voted on today isn’t perfect, but the fact that it passed overwhelmingly is proof that there is broad, bipartisan support for fixing our broken mental health system. We have been partners in this effort since day one, and with our Mental Health Reform Act ready for a vote, we urge Senate leaders to take action and make this issue a priority before the 114th Congress comes to an end.”

The bipartisan Mental Health Reform Act will expand federal resources and improve coordination for mental health and substance abuse treatment programs. After holding more than a dozen roundtables with mental health professionals, policy experts, consumers, and family members, Murphy and Cassidy introduced the bill with U.S. Senate HELP Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander and U.S. Senate HELP Committee Ranking Member Patty Murray.

Murphy is also a cosponsor of the TREAT Act, which would expand access to medication-assisted treatment. Earlier this year, Murphy spent a “Day in the Life” meeting with patients, health professionals, law enforcement, and advocates around Connecticut to learn firsthand how he can improve federal efforts to combat Connecticut’s addiction crisis and save lives.

In Connecticut, deaths caused by drug overdoses have skyrocketed. Last month, New Haven declared a public health emergency after more than 17 residents suffered from a drug overdose and three others died in a single day. In 2015, 729 Connecticut residents died from drug overdoses, including 415 heroin-related deaths.