Senators Markey and Hassan Query HHS on Status of Measuring Opioid Response Progress
Preliminary drop in overdose deaths for 2018 is promising but raises questions about progress on the larger public health crisis
Washington (August 9, 2019) – Following a recent preliminary report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicating a reduction in non-fatal opioid overdoes in 2018, Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass) and Senator Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) sent a letter to Health and Human Services (HHS) inquiring how the department is comprehensively measuring our progress in curtailing the nation’s opioid epidemic.
Along with Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), the Senators introduced last year the National Milestones to Measure Progress in Ending the Opioid Epidemic Act of 2018, which required HHS to develop a scorecard to measure progress in responding to the opioid overdose crisis. This bill was included in the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Actthat became law in October 2018. The Senators’ letter focused on the administration’s efforts to implement the Milestones requirements included in SUPPORT.
“We need to stay focused on tracking all relevant trends related to the opioid overdose crisis, not just overdose fatalities, to gain a clearer picture of where we are as a country in ending this epidemic,” write the Senators to HHS Secretary Alex Azar in their letter. “This additional information will help the federal government and states identify interventions that are working and those that are not, as well as recognizing areas for continued investment to improve health outcomes for individuals impacted by the epidemic.”
A copy of the letter can be found HERE.
In the letter to Secretary Azar, Senators Markey and Hassan ask questions that include:
- As required by law, the Secretary of Health and Human Services has 180 days to develop or identify existing national indicators, to measure our response to the opioid crisis. What are the at least ten national indicators that are being used to measure progress in addressing the opioid crisis?
- For each of the ten indicators, what is HHS’s stated goal or metric and annual targets, as the law requires HHS to develop?
- What barriers, if any, has HHS faced in identifying both the indicators and metrics to be used to measure the progress of our public health response to the opioid crisis?
- To date, what data do we have related to the following metrics outlined in the law related to the number of non-fatal overdoses, emergency room visits related to opioid misuse and abuse, individuals in sustained recovery from opioid use disorder, infections associated with illicit drug use, providers and the settings in which providers are using medication assisted treatment for opioid use disorders, and individuals in treatment for opioid use disorder.
- What are the current treatment statistics and trends for individuals who have suffered a nonfatal overdose? How are these numbers helping to guide resource decisions in the effort to end the crisis?