WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) announced the release of the Telehealth and Substance Use Disorder Services in the Era of Covid-19: Review and Recommendations. The report by the Legislative Analysis and Public Policy Association (LAPPA) found telehealth services can provide increased access to vulnerable individuals with substance use disorder, decrease costs, and reduce spread of communicable diseases. It recommended expanding and making consistent current state and federal telehealth policies. Beating the opioid epidemic is a key pillar of President Biden’s Unity Agenda.

“Across the United States, fewer than 1 out of 10 people with substance use disorder get the care they need. That is unequivocally unacceptable,” said Dr. Rahul Gupta, Director of ONDCP. “Through his Unity Agenda Strategy to beat the overdose epidemic, President Biden has made clear that this Administration will work to make it easier for people to access treatment and save lives. One way we can work to do that is by expanding telehealth services, a cost-effective way to increase access to care for vulnerable people with substance use disorder by meeting them where they are.”

As detailed in the report, people with substance use disorder were particularly vulnerable during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many people were suddenly unable to access services crucial to their treatment and recovery. Health care providers, treatment centers, outpatient clinics, group therapy, behavioral therapy, and other similar services that require continuity of care were abruptly disrupted, reduced in size, or closed. To meet the increasingly urgent needs of individuals with substance use disorder, some care providers shifted to telehealth services, permitted by changes at the federal and state levels that removed barriers to telehealth access. As outlined in the report, current federal and state laws related to telehealth services are inconsistent across the country.

The report outlines several recommendations to improve access to telehealth, including making permanent the regulatory relief granted during the Public Health Emergency which made it easier to access medications for Opioid Use Disorders. The research and drafting of the report was funded through ONDCP’s Model Acts Program and authored by its cooperative agreement award recipient, LAPPA. 

In collaboration with LAPPA, ONDCP also recently announced the release of the Model Syringe Services Program Act; the Model Expanded Access to Emergency Opioid Antagonists Act, a state model law that would help make access to naloxone consistent across the country; and the Model Opioid Litigation Proceeds Act, a state model law that would help ensure opioid litigation settlement funds are directed to addressing addiction and the overdose epidemic in impacted communities and with public accountability. Previously through this initiative, states have introduced the Model Overdose Fatality Reviews Teams Act, a LAPPA model law that would establish county-level multidisciplinary overdose fatality review that can be used to identify and respond to overdose deaths; and the Model Overdose Mapping (ODMAP) and Response Act, a LAPPA model law that would establish a system to track overdose incident reporting and improve public health and public safety responses.

The Biden-Harris Administration has already taken significant actions to address the overdose and opioid epidemic.

Read the Biden-Harris Administration’s inaugural National Drug Control Strategy HERE.

Read the fact sheet on the Strategy HERE.

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