ATTORNEY GENERAL TONG JOINS 39 STATE COALITION IN SENDING LETTER TO CONGRESSIONAL LEADERSHIP URGING REMOVAL OF FEDERAL BARRIERS TO TREAT OPIOID USE DISORDER
(Hartford, CT) – Attorney General William Tong joined a bipartisan coalition of attorneys general in a letter to Congress seeking the removal of federal barriers currently hindering the ability of health care providers to provide treatment for opioid use disorder. The letter, led by Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter and North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein, was signed by 39 attorneys general.
"Misguided and outdated bureaucratic barriers are hindering healthcare providers' abilities to quickly and effectively treat opioid use disorder. We cannot afford to fight the opioid epidemic with one hand tied behind our backs. I join my attorney general colleagues from across the country in urging Congress to enact these commonsense, simple reforms to free healthcare providers to take the steps they know are best to treat this disease," said Attorney General William Tong.
“States are on the front lines and are combining all of the resources at our disposal to stop the current crisis,” Attorney General Hunter said. “Although we have been successful in many ways, there is more that can be done by the federal government. By eliminating the barriers outlined in our letter, Congress can take meaningful, productive steps that will benefit those currently struggling with addiction before it’s too late. I appreciate my attorneys general colleagues, including North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein, who acknowledge that addiction is a brain disease, not a moral failing, and the more help we can provide for those struggling the better.”
The letter outlines three areas that need to be addressed:
- Replace the cumbersome, out-of-date, privacy rules contained in 42 CFR Part 2 with the effective and more familiar privacy rules contained in the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA);
- Pass HR 2482, the Mainstreaming Addiction Treatment Act, which would eliminate unnecessary burdens on buprenorphine prescribing imposed by the Drug 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 Outdated and unnecessary federal requirements are discouraging doctors from prescribing this life-saving drug to patients who need it; and
- Fully repeal the Medicaid Institutions for Mental Diseases (IMD) exclusion. The IMD exclusion generally 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 epidemic is tearing families apart all over our state and nation,” said Attorney General Stein. “Opioid addiction, like all chronic illnesses, requires treatment for people to get healthy. We must remove all unnecessary barriers between people with opioid use disorder and the treatment they need. I urge Congress to take these needed steps.”
Connecticut is joined on the letter by attorneys general from Oklahoma, North Carolina, Alaska, Arkansas, California, Colorado, 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 Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakoda, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.
Read the letter here.