Tuesday July 23rd 2019

Tackling nation’s opioid epidemic

In what is being hailed as the most sweeping drug addiction legislation in years, Congress mustered a bipartisan effort on July 14 to pass a comprehensive bill to help tackle the nation’s opioid epidemic. President Obama then signed the bill into law July 22.

The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2016 directs $181 million in new spending, with an expectation that lawmakers will approve nearly $500 million for opioid programs in the next budget year. It authorizes the U.S. Attorney General and Secretary of Health and Human Services to award state grants to address prescription opioid and heroin use in communities most impacted by the epidemic and an inter-agency task force to review best practices for pain management and prescribing pain medication.

U.S. Sen. Joseph Manchin III (D-WV) speaks at ANA's Lobby Day about the opioid epidemic in America. U.S. Sen. Joseph Manchin III
(D-WV) speaks at ANA’s Lobby Day about the opioid epidemic in America.

Throughout the debate, the American Nurses Association sought to advance nursing’s role in fighting the opioid crisis by addressing barriers and expanding access to treatment. In collaboration with the White House, ANA has also joined forces with 40 other organizations in a pledge to train more than 540,000 opioid prescribers over the next two years. A key provision in the legislation expands access to medication-assisted treatment by allowing nurse practitioners, for the first time, to prescribe buprenorphine, a medication used to reduce the risk of overdoses and treat opioid addiction. Currently, by law, only physicians can prescribe buprenorphine.

“This legislation represents much needed progress in our national effort to combat the devastating impact of the opioid epidemic, and nurses are committed to playing a leading role in treating patients battling addiction,” said ANA President Pamela F. Cipriano, PhD, RN, NEA-BC, FAAN. “While Congress has taken a step forward, we remain resolute in our support to ensure future appropriations are dedicated to tackling this issue.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health, since 1999, the amount of prescription opioids sold in the U.S. has nearly quadrupled. Deaths from opioids, like painkillers and heroin, have reached epidemic proportions in recent years, killing 47,000 Americans in 2014, surpassing car accidents as the No. 1 cause of injury death.

Read more from ANA on the opioid crisis at http://www.nursingworld.org/MainMenuCategories/WorkplaceSafety/Healthy-Work-Environment/Opioid-Epidemic.

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