States Urged to Ease Access to Medication-Assisted Treatment During Pandemic

doctor writing prescription

Now that the federal government has made it easier for many people being treated for opioid use disorder to receive extended supplies of medication-assisted treatment, states must ensure their own rules do not impede access, according to The Pew Charitable Trusts.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration is now permitting people deemed stable to take home methadone treatment courses of two weeks or longer, so they do not need to visit the clinic daily. And the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has suspended enforcement of the rule requiring an initial in-person consultation before treatment with buprenorphine can begin. DEA is also now allowing the use of telehealth for counseling, instead of in-person counseling that is often required in conjunction with medication.

States and municipalities need to ensure their own procedures do not conflict with these new federal rules, according to Pew. For example, they should allow patients to travel less frequently, re-evaluate policies about how patients can enter into treatment, and simplify licensing rules to permit more practitioners to provide services through telehealth. They should also permit reciprocal treatment agreements between states to telehealth patients can be treated across state lines, Pew said.

COVID-19: Accessing Critical Medications for Your Loved One

For those using or considering pharmacotherapy, also known as medication-assisted treatment, to treat opioid use disorder, we have guidance to help ensure there is no lapse in care due to COVID-19 circumstances.