Washington (December 13, 2022) – Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), author of the Opioid Treatment Access Act, issued the following statement today after the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through its Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), announced its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to update opioid use disorder treatment policies to break down barriers and support Americans on their path to recovery. This proposal would expand access to treatment for Americans with opioid use disorder by creating additional flexibilities for Opioid Treatment Programs (OTPs) to give people take home doses of methadone medication, provide services through mobile units and telehealth services, and allow more practitioners within OTPs to prescribe the medication. The proposal is also consistent with the Senator’s oversight and legislative efforts to increase access to affective treatments and combat the nation’s opioid epidemic, included as key provisions within his Opioid Treatment Access Act.

“We are in an overdose crisis, and today’s announcement from SAMHSA is an important step on our nation’s road to recovery. I commend HHS and SAMHSA for taking this critical step toward expanding treatment for the many Americans who live with opioid use disorder and who deserve accessible medical care. This proposed change in federal rules would save countless lives by heeding the advice of medical providers and breaking down needless barriers to treatment.

“But Congress must do more. For many, the passage of the Opioid Treatment Access Act is the difference between life and death. This legislation will enable SAMHSA to do even more to reduce barriers, cut costs, and save lives. Opioid misuse impacts Americans from every background, every political party, in every state across the country, so I am calling on every one of my colleagues in Congress to step up and pass this bill to prevent overdoses and allow doctors to use their expertise in prescribing methadone to be picked up at a pharmacy.”

Introduced by Senators Markey and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Representative Donald Norcross (NJ-01), the Opioid Treatment Access Act would modernize and improve the process of obtaining methadone for opioid use disorder treatment by building on SAMHSA’s COVID-19 exemptions that allow patients to receive longer take-home supplies of methadone, allowing physicians outside of OTPs to prescribe methadone, allowing pharmacies to dispense methadone to OTP patients, rather than requiring patients to travel to clinics, and codifying regulations that allow OTPs to operate mobile medication components without separate DEA registrations. This legislation would go beyond the proposed rules by allowing physicians specialized in addiction medicine and addiction psychiatry to prescribe methadone for opioid use disorder that could be picked up at a pharmacy.