Access to high-quality healthcare is a key value at Neighborhood Health Center, and we are pleased that new legislation will help us better serve patients living with opioid use disorder by streamlining the process of connecting patients with needed medications.
Signed into law by President Biden in late December, the 2023 Consolidated Appropriations Act (P.L.117-328) will significantly expand access to medication for opioid use disorder. The new law amended the Controlled Substances Act to eliminate the requirement for qualified practitioners to first obtain a special waiver to prescribe medications such as buprenorphine for the treatment of opioid use disorder.
This new legislation ends the patient limits associated with the need for a special waiver, making it easier for qualified practitioners to prescribe buprenorphine. Additionally, the new law builds on the Department of Health and Human Services Overdose Prevention Strategy and delivers on the call to action in President Biden’s Unity Agenda to address the overdose and addiction crisis.
“We have seen the devastation that opioid use has caused for families,” says Neighborhood Health Center Senior Medical Director Dr. Christopher Biondolillo. “This removal of the special waiver requirement will help us get needed medication to patients faster and that can save lives.”
During the COVID-19 pandemic, drug overdose fatalities surged throughout New York State, with opioid-related overdose deaths increasing by 68% to nearly 5,000 individuals from 2019 to 2021, according to an analysis report on drug overdose deaths prepared by the New York State Office of Budget Policy and Analysis. This surge in overdose deaths is largely due to a sharp increase in abuse of fentanyl and similar synthetic opioids. There were 5,841 recorded statewide overdose deaths attributed to opioids and all drugs in 2021, surpassing the previous 2017 peak by more than 1,700 fatalities, as seen in the report released by NYS.
Neighborhood Health Center applauds this recently signed federal legislation, as well as efforts by New York State to address the problem. The data show that the battle against drug overdoses and opioid use disorder is far from over. We are committed to being part of the solution and treating each individual, through a patient-centered approach, with respect, dignity, and confidentiality.