By Sherrod Brown
Addiction to opioids, like prescription painkillers and heroin, has increased significantly in the past few years, devastating communities across Ohio — rural, suburban, and urban. In 2012, a record 1,914 Ohioans died from accidental drug overdose — an average of five Ohioans each day – and 680 of those deaths can be attributed to heroin use. Frustratingly, the doctors willing to helping address this crisis have federal restrictions placed on the number of patients they can treat for this dangerous addiction.
Currently, physicians who meet specific training requirements are limited to treating a maximum of only 30 patients in the first year. After that year, the number of patients they can treat increases to only 100, leaving millions of Americans dependent on opioids without an option for medication-assisted therapy.
We’ve got a problem when it’s easier for Americans to get heroin than it is for them to get help to break their addiction. We need to increase the number of opioid addiction treatment providers available and allow providers with a proven track record of success to treat more patients. I cosponsored The Recovery Enhancement for Addiction Treatment (T.R.E.A.T.) Act to give health care providers the flexibility they need to help heal communities struggling with widespread opioid addiction.
The T.R.E.A.T. Act would increase the number of patients a physician can initially treat from 30 to 100 patients in the first year and permit nurse practitioners and physician assistants with the proper training to treat addicted patients, again up to 100 per year. It would also allow providers, after one year, to request to treat more than 100 patients, so long as they meet certain training requirements.
Opioid use is a public crisis in Ohio, and we need to address this problem before it puts more lives in danger. This legislation would ensure Ohioans get the help they need before it’s too late.