A key aspect of battling the growing heroin epidemic may lie in treating those already suffering from addiction.
At least that’s the approach The Recovery Enhancement for Addiction Treatment Act aims to take. The act, which was introduced by U.S. Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., last week and co-sponsored by U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Cleveland, would allow addiction treatment centers to treat more patients suffering from opiate addictions each year.
As it stands now, physicians are required by law to apply for a waiver before they are authorized to prescribe some opioid addiction medicines. They are only allowed to treat up to 30 patients in the first year after they are authorized and only 100 each year after.
TREAT would increase the number of patients a physician can care for in the first year after their authorization from 30 to 100. It would also allow physicians to request the removal of the patient limit in the years following and give certain nurse practitioners and assistants the ability to treat up to 100 patients each year.
In a conference call Wednesday, Brown addressed the TREAT Act, which he said would save the hospital system money and reduce crimes related to drug abuse.
“This legislation would ensure Ohioans get the help they need before it’s too late,” he said.
Mark Piacentini, a Marion County doctor who regularly works with patients suffering from heroin addictions, also spoke at the conference call, saying that he was having difficulty managing the number of patients who needed help.
“I’m alone up here … and I need help,” Piancentini said, adding that he has had to turn away at least one addicted pregnant woman in the past few weeks because of the restrictions on how many people he’s allowed to help. “You’re not going to get the drugs out of the city unless you treat the people in the city.”
The proposed legislation follows close on the heels of a similar unrelated bill introduced by U.S. Reps. Marcia Fudge, D-Cleveland, and Tim Ryan, D-Howland, on July 17.
Their bill proposed eliminating the “16 bed rule” which states that Medicaid will only cover addiction treatment in community-based programs if they house 16 patients or fewer.
Brown said that TREAT is still in the early stages but he hopes to get Republican cosponsors.
“If people could see beyond the next election … this is something that we need,” he said.