Expanded access to opioid treatment benefits patients facing substance abuse disorder, recovery centers

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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – According to the CDC, more than 2,000 drug overdose deaths were reported in Indiana last year. As opioid and other substance overuse continues to be a concern, the Biden Administration wants to make one treatment option more accessible.

On Wednesday, the Health and Human Services (HHS) Department made it easier for physicians to treat opioid addiction using buprenorphine. This treatment reduces cravings for opioids and withdrawal symptoms.

In the past, physicians had to clear hurdles like taking a certification course and earning a waiver before being allowed to prescribe the drug. The HHS move on Wednesday eliminated the waiver, removing one hurdle needed before a physician could prescribe buprenorphine.

The HHS will also allow more healthcare workers like nurse practitioners and physician assistants to prescribe this medication.

This update from the HHS will benefit local providers, like the Bowen Center, who treat dozens of patients battling opiote use disorder. According to the Medical Director Dr. Carolyn Warner-Greer, about half of the organization’s staff meet all of the previous requirements to prescribe buprenorphine. She hopes the loosening of restrictions will open the door for nurse practitioners and psychiatrists to administer this treatment for patients.

“If they identified someone, they could at least start them that medication instead of making an appointment with one of our colleagues that might not be right that minute so we don’t have to turn anyone away,” said. Dr. Warner-Greer.

Patients living in rural or remote areas could also benefit from this decision by the HHS. With healthcare access often limited in these areas, patients could get immediate treatment from a family doctor or nurse practitioner who has not gotten a waiver.

“When someone who’s struggling with a substance use disorder wants help, they want help that day, and they may not want help in a week,” Dr. Warner-Greer said.

Dr. Warner-Greer also hopes that further action is taken to remove restrictions on how many patients could receive buprenorphine from a healthcare professional. Currently, physicians are capped at treating 30 patients without a waiver and certification training. She also hopes Congress passes legislation that will set a baseline on how prescribers can treat or manage patients battling substance abuse disorder.

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