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November 26, 2018 (Cleveland)

Opioid Consortium Policy Agenda Moves Forward

Opioid Consortium Policy AgendaThe Northeast Ohio Hospital Opioid Consortium policy agenda progressed this month as the collaborative advocated for changes to two key issues that would strengthen efforts to combat opioid addiction and overdose. Specifically, these issues relate to expanded access to medication-assisted treatment and regulatory changes that would enable providers to better coordinate care for patients with substance use disorders (SUD).

  • The Consortium submitted a letter to the state boards of medicine, pharmacy and nursing encouraging them to consider a joint regulatory statement regarding the use of buprenorphine to treat opioid use disorder (OUD). The purpose of such a statement is to raise awareness of the benefits and safety of buprenorphine for treatment of OUD. This falls directly under one of the Consortium’s key goals: to increase the use of medication-assisted treatment. Recognition of the value of buprenorphine by the state medical, pharmacy and nursing boards will help to encourage medical professionals to utilize this treatment option, expanding access for patients.
  • Through a letter to Senators Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman, the Consortium is urging the Senate to address an issue raised as highly problematic by the membership: regulations that limit providers’ access to the full scope of patients’ medical information related to substance use disorders. A federal regulation – 42 CFR Part 2 – requires patients to specifically consent to allowing their other healthcare providers access to certain SUD treatment information. H.R. 6082, which passed the U.S. House of Representatives 357-57 this summer, is currently pending in the Senate. It would align 42 CFR Part 2 with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) for treatment, payment and healthcare operations. H.R. 6082 would ensure providers have access to the full scope of medical information for each patient, enabling them to deliver safe, high-quality, coordinated care.  If not passed by the end of the year, the legislation will expire and the effort would have to begin anew with the start of the next congressional session in 2019.

The Consortium also welcomed at its November meeting Douglas O’Brien, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Region 5 director. This was an opportunity for HHS to learn more about the work of the Consortium in Northeast Ohio as well as for Consortium members to gain some insight into HHS activities related to the opioid issue.

“This is a community crisis that is going to be solved with community innovation,” said O’Brien. “The work the people in this room are doing – clinicians, social workers, everybody in the continuum of care – is winning this battle step by step every day and it’s not going to come from a manual that we put out in Washington.”

He praised the model of the Consortium, emphasizing that while there are many groups across the country working on this crucial issue, the Consortium is the only hospital-driven initiative he has seen. He emphasized that he sees tremendous potential for this approach to be replicated in other parts of the country.

For more information about the Northeast Ohio Hospital Opioid Consortium policy agenda, contact us.