We thank Congress for acting this week to combat the opioid crisis by passing the 21st Century Cures Bill, and including $500 million in state grants in the Congressional Budget Resolution. While it is by no means a comprehensive solution, it will help fund programs to combat this epidemic that kills more than 30,000 people every year, more than the number of Americans that die in car crashes. This new money will combat both prescription opioid addiction, as well as addiction to heroin, which, in 2015, was responsible for more deaths than gun violence, according to CDC data released this week.
We also applaud the legislation for specifying treatment for veterans, and for advancing intervention programs as alternatives to incarceration for non-violent crimes committed by people living with addiction.
We urge the decision makers allocating the funding to invest our taxpayer dollars wisely. Look critically at the recovery programs being funded to ensure they are using the most evidence-based treatments, which would include recovery medication. Recovery medication as part of the standard of care and has been endorsed by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the World Health Organization, UNAIDS and many other physician groups, so it is unacceptable that only 15% of the people receiving treatment receive recovery medication.
A recent IMS Institute study we spearheaded showed enormous variability in how states are using medication assisted treatments. For example, the share of recovery prescriptions paid for by state Medicaid programs ranged from less than 5 percent in Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, and Utah to 68 percent in Vermont. The huge variability is an indicator of the erratic decision-making around when to use recovery medication. So as we finally see some investment in programs, we urge funders to make sure the programs are following the evidence-based standards of care and including recovery medications.
AOR will continue the fight for the serious and equal treatment of the disease of addiction. We will continue to advocate for more public and private resources and better application and accessibility of evidence based treatment for the disease of opioid addiction.