Washington, D.C. – Today, White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) Director Dr. Rahul Gupta released the following statement on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)’s historic new actions to expand access to addiction treatment and save lives:
“President Biden has made beating the overdose epidemic a key priority of his Unity Agenda. Since 2021, our Administration has been working across all of government to tackle this public health crisis and save lives. HHS’ historic announcements today continue our unprecedented efforts to ensure people can access lifesaving treatment and resources when and where they need it.”
“Under President Biden’s leadership, we have invested more funding and broken more barriers to treatment than any previous administration. As a physician who has provided addiction treatment firsthand, I know these actions can mean the difference between life or death.”
Read more on HHS’ new actions to expand access to life-saving methadone and buprenorphine treatment for opioid use disorder, deliver on the National Response Plan to address the emerging threat of fentanyl combined with xylazine by allowing grant funds to purchase xylazine test strips, and release of an updated Overdose Prevention and Response Toolkit HERE.
At President Biden’s direction, the Biden-Harris Administration has made historic investments, taken historic action, and removed decades-long barriers to substance use disorder treatment and overdose reversal medication over the past three years to help address the overdose epidemic and save lives.
HHS’ historic action today will update federal regulations for opioid treatment programs for the first time in more than two decades by:
- Making permanent COVID-19 era flexibilities that expand eligibility for patients to receive take-home doses of methadone. This will help reduce the burden of transportation for frequent clinic visits. Research has shown that patients receiving take-home doses are more likely to remain in treatment and less likely to use illicit opioids.
- Allowing initiation of treatment via telehealth, including methadone via audio-visual telehealth technology and buprenorphine via audio-only technology, to remove transportation barriers.
- Expanding provider eligibility to allow nurse practitioners and physician assistants to order medications in OTPs, where state law allows, to reduce the burden on OTP operations and increase patient access to medications.
- Breaking down barriers to entry for treatment by removing the stringent admission criteria that had previously required patients to have a history of addiction for a full year before being eligible for treatment. This will help open more doors to treatment for more people when they need it and ensure that everyone can get the care they need.
- Expanding access to interim treatment, allowing patients to initiate medication treatment while awaiting further services to ensure people have access to care as soon as they are ready and reduce the barriers of treatment waitlists.
Additional Biden-Harris Administration historic actions to expand access to treatment over the past three years also includes:
- Expanding the number of health care providers who can prescribe medication for opioid use disorder from 129,000 to nearly 2 million with the elimination of the X-Waiver.
- Lifting a 17-year moratorium on mobile methadone vans which allow for greater access to this FDA approved medication, especially in rural areas and areas where access to treatment is limited.
- Permitting Medicaid reimbursement for addiction treatment services 90 days prior to release from incarceration and connection to care upon release.
- Permitting the use of State Opioid Response funds to be used for addiction treatment and services for people who are incarcerated.
Biden-Harris Administration historic actions to increase access to overdose reversal medications include:
- Approving overdose reversal medication for non-prescription, over-the-counter purchase at grocery stores and pharmacies across the country for the first time ever;
- Convening U.S. drug manufacturers who have FDA-approved overdose reversal medication products to discuss ways to increase access and affordability to save more lives;
- Launching a campaign to educate young people on the dangers of fentanyl and the life-saving effects of naloxone with the Ad Council;
- Making it easier for harm reduction organizations to obtain naloxone directly from manufacturers and distributors while expanding public availability of this critical medicine;
- Supporting states through enhanced technical assistance, policy academies, and convenings to ensure existing State Opioid Response funds are used to saturate hard-hit communities with naloxone;
- Delivering funds directly to states so they can purchase naloxone; and
- Calling for an additional $100 million for harm reduction services like naloxone in the President’s FY24 budget request.
The Biden-Harris Administration has not only taken historic policy actions, but invested historic amounts of funding to help make these policy changes a reality. President Biden is investing $83 billion in treatment, which is 42% more than was made the under the previous Administration.
In addition to public health efforts, the Biden-Harris Administration has also made disrupting global illicit drug trafficking and holding drug traffickers accountable a key priority in the efforts to beat the overdose epidemic. Under President Biden’s leadership, the Administration has adopted a more comprehensive strategic approach to global drug production and trafficking, invested significant amounts of funding for law enforcement efforts to address illicit fentanyl trafficking, and seized historic amounts of illicit drugs at our borders.