Rep. Norcross Applauds SAMHSA Proposed Rule to Expand Access to Opioid Use Disorder Treatment, Calls on Senate to Pass the Opioid Treatment Access Act
WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Congressman Donald Norcross (D-NJ-01) applauded the announcement that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through its Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), has proposed to expand access to treatment for opioid use disorder (OUD) at a time when more than 107,000 Americans lost their lives to an overdose last year. He also called on the U.S. Senate to pass the Opioid Treatment Access Act before the end of the year. Provisions of the bill passed the House on a broad bipartisan basis in June as part of the Restoring Hope for Mental Health and Well-Being Act of 2022. U.S. Senators Ed Markey (D-MA) and Rand Paul (R-KY) are leading an effort in the U.S. Senate to pass the Senate version of the bill in an end-of-year package.
“I applaud SAMHSA for listening to doctors and patients by proposing regulations that would permanent COVID-era waivers to methadone prescription. This approach has proven to be effective at lowering barriers to care and keeping those suffering from the disease of addiction in treatment,” said Congressman Norcross. “However, SAMHSA can only do so much on its own. The methadone clinic cartel is trying to restrict access to care and keep in place a status quo that stigmatizes those who seek treatment for opioid use disorder. My critical legislation will ensure that over 77 million Americans who lack easy access to a clinic can still receive life-saving care. I implore my colleagues in the Senate to pass this bipartisan bill and thank Senators Ed Markey and Rand Paul for leading this effort in their chamber.”
“We are in an overdose crisis, and today’s announcement from SAMHSA is an important step on our nation’s road to recovery. But Congress must do more — for many, the passage of the Opioid Treatment Access Act is the difference between life and death. This legislation will reduce barriers, cut costs, and save lives. Opioid misuse impacts Americans from every background, every political party, in every state across the country, so I am calling on every one of my colleagues in Congress to step up and pass this bill to prevent overdoses and allow doctors to use their expertise in prescribing methadone to be picked up at a pharmacy,” said Senator Ed Markey.
Congressman Norcross has been increasingly critical of the American Association for the Treatment of Opioid Dependence (AATOD), an industry group that represents the nation’s opioid treatment facilities (often referred to as “methadone clinics” or “opioid treatment programs” [OTPs]). According to AATOD’s website, “approximately 60% of the OTPs are operated by for-profit entities.”
The special interest group aimed at the Opioid Treatment Access Act at its annual conference, where it spread misleading information, misrepresented scientific data, and ignored recent peer-reviewed articles suggesting that lifting methadone restrictions increases access to treatment without an increased risk of drug misuse or death.
“We have a bill that will save countless lives that passed the House by an overwhelming majority and has bipartisan support in the Senate – but is at risk of failing because a special interest group is opposed to it,” said Congressman Norcross. “It is unacceptable that a cartel of methadone clinics is trying to stop people from receiving the treatment they need to live healthy, full lives. SAMHSA’s new proposed regulations are a great step in the right direction—but at a time when we’re losing hundreds of thousands of American lives a year due to drug overdose, we must do more.”
“As a physician, I know the value of the doctor-patient relationship. This bipartisan legislation will return treatment decisions to health care providers, who know their patients best. Doing so will be another important step toward combating the opioid epidemic that has caused so much harm in Kentucky and our nation,” said Senator Rand Paul.
In a speech delivered last week, Congressman Norcross called out the leader of AATOD for opposing the bill, which would essentially strip AATOD members of their monopoly on life-saving methadone. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey recently announced $3.15 million in criminal and civil penalties for an opioid treatment facility for Medicaid billing fraud, a kickback scheme, and obstruction of a federal audit.