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Executives mixed on opioid commission report

November 2, 2017
by Tom Valentino, Senior Editor
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The President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction has released a long-awaited report with recommendations on how the nation should fight the opioid crisis. The commission’s report contained 56 strategies that included expanding drug courts to all federal court jurisdictions, making continuous training a requirement for prescribers to be licensed, and mandating prescribers to check prescription drug monitoring databases to ensure patients are not “doctor shopping” for medications.

The commission’s recommendations received mixed reviewed from executives in the field. The following comments are excerpts of statements published by industry leaders following the release of the report:

Mark Dunn, director of public policy, NAATP: “Not only is enforcement [of the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act] on the list, the commission recommends that monetary penalties be assessed on insurers who fail to comply. A uniform tool to monitor compliance and transparency regarding reasons for denials would also be a very positive development. Better screening by health care professionals for substance use disorder would be a substantial step forward in addressing this health crisis as would easier access to appropriate care. Elimination of the IMD 16-bed exclusion for Medicaid patients, which the president has already taken steps to implement, is another positive outcome.

Chuck Ingoglia, senior vice president, public policy and practice improvement, National Council for Behavioral Health: “While the report recommends some positive steps forward, it starves the country for the real resources it needs to save American lives. In addition to no increased federal spending, the report doesn’t recommend expanding the Excellence in Mental Health and Addiction Act, which would allow more Americans to access comprehensive, coordinated treatment services. Block granting addiction treatment resources may ease some regulations but does nothing toward combatting the opioid epidemic. After all, if there is no treatment available for Americans, how are we going to cure the epidemic?”

Andrew Kessler, principal, Slingshot Solutions: “I was very pleased with the commission's recommendations on workforce and Medicaid reimbursement. We are in need of a highly trained workforce, and one that can stay on the job at a respectable wage. As Congress and others demand "greater access to treatment," few have stopped to realize that we are not where we need to be in terms of credentialed, qualified professionals. We need to be in this for the long haul, and if we want the best and the brightest, we must pay for the best and the brightest.”

Gary Mendell, founder and CEO, Shatterproof: I hope they continue to build off President Trump’s declaration last week, and the commission’s report today, by fully implementing all of their proposed recommendations. They should especially prioritize implementing improved provider education, adoption of the CDC guideline, medication-assisted treatment (MAT) access and expanded naloxone use. However, today’s recommendations fail to address comprehensive addiction treatment. The country needs a national standard of care for addiction treatment programs.”

B. Douglas Hoey, CEO, National Community Pharmacists Association: “The commission proposed that the relevant federal agencies and pharmacy associations work collaboratively to train pharmacists on best practices for evaluating the legitimacy of opioid prescriptions, as opposed to penalizing pharmacists for denying inappropriate prescriptions. It’s important to assure that remedies implemented through legislation or regulation allow patients with legitimate pain management needs to access appropriate medication. That means that compliance requirements should not overreach so that needful patients are made to suffer.”

A draft of the commission’s full list of 56 recommendations is available on the White House website.

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