McKinley, Budd, Cicilline, Trone Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Increase Access to Telehealth Services for Substance Use Disorder Treatment
Overdoses in United States Spiked by 18 Percent Before the COVID-19 pandemic
Washington, March 8, 2021
WASHINGTON D.C. – Today U.S. Representatives David B. McKinley P.E. (R-W.Va.), Ted Budd (R-NC), David Cicilline (D-RI), and David Trone (D-MD) introduced the Telehealth Response for E-prescribing Addiction Therapy Services (TREATS) Act to support the expansion of telehealth services for substance use disorder treatment.
The TREATS Act was previously introduced in the House last Congress. In an effort to re-engage the public and legislators on this important issue the bill is being reintroduced in hopes that it will become law.
The TREATS Act would extend telehealth flexibilities by making permanent key waivers, including the ability to prescribe Medication-Assisted Treatments (MAT) and other necessary drugs, and the ability to bill Medicare for audio-only telehealth services. By taking these steps, the legislation will increase overall access to MAT and support telehealth needs in rural communities where broadband may be unreliable.
“The opioid crisis hasn’t gone away since the start of the COVID pandemic, in fact it has gotten worse,” said McKinley. “Ensuring that all Americans have access to vital substance abuse treatment is crucial to getting this opioid crisis under control. This bill does just that by making sure that Americans of all zip codes have equal access to care no matter where they live.”
“We should make it as easy as possible for those who struggle with substance abuse to get the help they need. Data has shown that overdoses have spiked during the pandemic. Especially during COVID-19, cutting out regulatory barriers to treatment should be a national priority, and I’m proud to support a bill like the TREATS Act that does just that,” said Budd.
“People with substance use disorder have been put at particular risk during this pandemic,” said Trone. “The telehealth waivers implemented for COVID-19 are innovations long-needed by people seeking treatment or in recovery. The TREATS Act will allow us to make these life-saving addiction policies permanent. I want to thank my colleagues for working in a bipartisan way on this bill that will help save lives across the country.”
“We applaud this bipartisan group for their leadership in introducing the Telehealth Response for E-prescribing Addiction Therapy Services Act, which will expand access to treatment for substance use disorder through the use of telemedicine—and, ultimately, promote remission and recovery from addiction and save lives,” said Paul H. Earley, MD, DFASAM, President of the American Society of Addiction Medicine.
The bill would waive regulatory restrictions for accessing care in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. While the temporary waivers provide a necessary reprieve for patients so that they may continue their treatments and counseling virtually, they are time limited and will ultimately expire at the conclusion of the Public Health Emergency.
The legislation is supported by: American Society for Addiction Medicine, National Safety Council, Community Catalyst, Boston Medical Center, National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers, Shatterproof and The Kennedy Forum.
To read bill text, click here.