Booker, Braun Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Combat Opioid Crisis, Increase Access to Care

Booker, Braun Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Combat Opioid Crisis, Increase Access to Care

 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Cory Booker and Mike Braun (R-IN) introduced legislation to establish a pharmacy-based addiction care pilot program. The Substance Use Prevention and Pharmacy Oriented Recovery Treatment Prescription Act (SUPPORT Rx) would increase access to lifesaving addiction services provided by pharmacies, including low-barrier treatment and buprenorphine, a medication used for opioid use disorder.

 

The opioid crisis continues to escalate, with drug overdose deaths reaching alarming levels. Synthetic opioids like fentanyl have exacerbated the crisis, contributing to over 82% of all opioid-involved deaths in 2020. This legislation emphasizes the importance of medication-assisted treatment, combining prescription medication, counseling, and behavioral therapy to address opioid use disorder effectively. 

 

“Our nation is facing the worst drug epidemic in its history, and fentanyl and other synthetic opioids are the driving forces currently devastating communities across our nation,” said Senator Booker. “Right now, individuals struggling with addiction face barriers to receiving necessary treatment and care, but this bipartisan legislation provides an innovative solution by leveraging pharmacies as hubs for addiction care where patients can receive treatment safely and quickly with fewer barriers. We must act now to expand access to life-saving treatments and services, and continue crafting effective policy so Americans struggling with addiction can get the help they need.”

 

“Opioid and heroin addiction is ripping our communities apart, and action is needed,” said Senator Braun. “Buprenorphine is used to wean users off of opioids, heroin, and fentanyl, and has shown promising results when compared to methadone. This bill will create a pilot program to incentivize addiction treatments using buprenorphine to prevent opioid overdoses and save lives, families, and communities.”

“As key access points for addiction services, pharmacies play an essential role in addressing the overdose crisis. We urge Congress to make lifesaving addiction services provided by pharmacies, like low-barrier treatment and medications for opioid use disorder, more accessible,” said Hannan Sharif-Kazemi, Policy Coordinator in the Office of Federal Affairs, Drug Policy Alliance. 

“The American College of Clinical Pharmacy applauds Senator Cory Booker and Senator Mike Braun for introducing the Substance Use Prevention and Pharmacy Oriented Recovery Treatment Prescription Act (SUPPORT Rx Act). Pharmacists working collaboratively with patients, physicians, and other members of the healthcare team to optimize medication use is the cornerstone of the clinical pharmacy profession. We are grateful for Senator Booker and Braun’s leadership to expand access to vital community-based clinical treatment and recovery services facilitated by collaborative practice agreements. We look forward to working with a diverse group of stakeholders to help advance community-based treatments for individuals with opioid or other substance use disorders,” said Brian A. Hemstreet, Pharm.D. FCCP, BCPS, President, American College of Clinical Pharmacy.

Medication-assisted treatment is the combination of prescription medication, counseling, and behavioral therapy to treat an individual afflicted by opioid use disorder. Pharmacy-based treatment models present a novel method to expand access to treatment medications. By harnessing the potential of pharmacy-based treatment models, the bill aims to bridge the gap in access to care and save lives. With 95% of Americans living within five miles of a pharmacy, pharmacies can be used as critical access points for this type of care and significantly improve the effectiveness and accessibility of treatment.

Specifically, the bill will:

  • Require the Secretary of Health and Human Services to provide grants to demonstrate pharmacy-based addiction care programs. Grants can be used for: 
    • Offering evidence-based medication treatments for opioid/substance use disorder that can be accessed through same- day services.
    • Training pharmacists on treating and managing patients with opioid and other substance use disorders
    • Continuity fee payments to providers or clinics.
    • Tele-behavioral health services and the construction to permit private or semi-private spaces for counseling and administration of medication.
    • HIPPAA-compliant technology for data sharing with clinicians.
  • Require Health and Human Services to issue draft guidance with technical assistance, recommendations, and best practices regarding pharmacy-based addiction treatment. 

The bill is cosponsored by Senator Ed Markey (D-MA).

The legislation is endorsed by the following organizations: American Society of Consultant Pharmacists, National Association for State Boards of Pharmacy, American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, American College of Clinical Pharmacy, National Alliance of State, American Association of Psychiatric Pharmacists, The Partnership for Drug Free NJ, and The Overdose Prevention Initiative. 

To read the full text of the bill, click here.

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