AG Fox Urges Congress to Remove Federal Barriers to Treat Opioid Use Disorder

AG Fox Urges Congress to Remove Federal Barriers to Treat Opioid Use Disorder

Attorney General Fox sent a letter today to Congressional leadership in both chambers, asking for the removal of federal barriers preventing health care providers from offering treatment for opioid use disorder. The letter was signed by 39 attorneys general.

Opioid use disorder is the physical and psychological reliance on opioids. Symptoms of opioid addiction include uncontrollable cravings for the drugs and the inability to control opioid use despite its negative impacts.

“An estimated two million Americans struggle with opioid use disorder, and states are on the front lines,” Attorney General Tim Fox said. “Although we’ve been successful in some ways in stopping the current crisis, more can be done by the federal government. By eliminating the barriers outlined in our letter, Congress can take meaningful steps to benefit those struggling with addiction before it’s too late. Addiction is a brain disease, not a moral failing, and the more help we can provide for struggling individuals, the better.”

The letter outlines three areas that need to be addressed:

• Replace the cumbersome, out-of-date, privacy rules contained in 42 CFR Part 2 with the effective and more familiar privacy rules contained in the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA);

• Pass HR 2482, the Mainstreaming Addiction Treatment Act, which would eliminate unnecessary burdens on buprenorphine prescribing imposed by the Drug Addiction Treatment Act of 2000. Buprenorphine is one of three drugs used as part of Medication Assisted Treatment, the most effective treatment for opioid use disorder. Outdated and unnecessary federal requirements are discouraging doctors from prescribing this life-saving drug to patients who need it; and

• Fully repeal the Medicaid Institutions for Mental Diseases (IMD) exclusion. The IMD exclusion generally prohibits state Medicaid programs from receiving federal reimbursement for adults between 21 and 65 receiving mental health or substance use disorder treatment in a residential treatment facility with more than 16 beds.

“The opioid epidemic is tearing families apart all over our state and nation,” Attorney General Fox added. “Opioid addiction, like all chronic illnesses, requires treatment for people to get healthy. We must remove all unnecessary barriers between people with opioid use disorder and the treatment they need. I urge Congress to take these needed steps.”

Montana is joined on the letter by attorneys general from Alaska, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakoda, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

Attorney General Fox and the Montana Department of Justice have worked to raise awareness of substance abuse in Big Sky Country, starting with the Resolve Montana Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention campaign in 2014. Under Resolve Montana, the number of prescription drug disposal drop box locations were expanded statewide to include pharmacies and hospitals. In 2017, Resolve Montana expanded into a new initiative, Aid Montana: Addressing the Impact of Drugs, to comprehensively approach the state’s acute substance abuse problem by including alcohol and illegal drug use.

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