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    Continue expanded access to OUD treatment via telehealth

    Despite strong evidence of its effectiveness, few people with opioid use disorder (OUD) receive medication treatment.

    Prior to COVID, federal law required health care providers to see patients in person before prescribing buprenorphine, an FDA-approved medication to treat OUD. In response to the COVID Public Health Emergency, however, federal agencies temporarily removed the in-person exam requirement for prescribing medication via telemedicine for people with opioid use disorder.

    Telehealth flexibilities helped more patients access care and has promoted retention.[1] It can particularly help hard-to-reach populations and populations with already low treatment rates, such as veterans, those living in rural areas, people experiencing homelessness, individuals in the criminal justice system, and racial and ethnic minorities. Allowing access via telehealth helps remove barriers to in-person treatment including lack of transportation, lack of child care, job restrictions, stigma, etc. Audio-only visits are critical for those without reliable internet access or the technology for video calls.[2]

    Concerns that remote buprenorphine prescribing could lead to a spike in diversion have been unfounded. Greater access to buprenorphine over the past few years has not led to more buprenorphine-related overdoses.[3]

    The flexibilities were extended past the end of the COVID Public Health Emergency, but they are now set to expire at the end of 2024.

    The Telehealth Response for E-prescribing Addiction Therapy Services (TREATS) Act (H.R. 5163/S. 3193) would make these flexibilities permanent. It would allow patients with OUD to receive a prescription for buprenorphine by video or audio-only appointments without first being evaluated in person.

    This would ensure expanded access to life-saving medication continues. Providing treatment to patients with addiction as soon as they are ready is critical, and allowing buprenorphine access without first requiring an in-person appointment can help facilitate this. It would also help provide the certainty that health care providers need to invest the time and resources to set up remote care.[4]

    Ask your members of Congress to cosponsor and support the TREATS Act to expand access to OUD care.