U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) announced on Aug. 28 that the state of Ohio received $96 million in federal funding for state opioid response grants thanks to the 21st Century CURES Act, which Portman supported. Ohio received $96 million of the $1.5 billion announced by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to help states and tribes combat the ongoing addiction crisis. This funding is meant to expand access to treatment and prevention services, set up harm reduction programs, and hire addiction treatment providers. Portman has repeatedly discussed the impact the ongoing COVID-19 crisis is having on the addiction epidemic and called for a redoubling of efforts to save lives.
Portman issued the following statement:
“The COVID-19 pandemic had made our efforts to combat addiction much more difficult and this additional federal funding for Ohio will make a big difference. The legislative response to the coronavirus crisis has thus far focused on expanding telehealth options for opioid treatment and an increase in alternate delivery methods for patients quarantined at home to maintain their access to opioid treatment providers. These are positive steps, and I have introduced bipartisan legislation called the Telehealth Response for E-Prescribing Addiction Services Treatment Act to make permanent a number of temporary waivers for telehealth services and bolster telehealth options for addiction treatment services. But we must do more. Congress must ensure our local communities and addiction providers have the resources they need to adapt to this new reality, and I will continue to help lead efforts in the U.S. Senate to combat this addiction crisis.”
NOTE: During the coronavirus pandemic, social distancing guidelines have disrupted traditional addiction treatment services and necessitated the use of telehealth services to help individuals with recovery. That’s why Senator Portman has introduced legislation entitled the Telehealth Response for E-Prescribing Addiction Treatment Services (TREATS) Act to make permanent a number of temporary waivers for telehealth services and to bolster telehealth options for addiction treatment services. Specifically, it will allow for a patient to be prescribed lower scheduled drugs like buprenorphine through telehealth on their first visit. Current law requires an in-person visit to receive any controlled substance, but this is a deterrent to patients in crisis and in urgent need of treatments from Schedule III or IV drugs.
The bill will also allow Medicare to bill for audio-only, or telephone, telehealth visits if it’s not a patient’s first visit. In-person visits or telehealth visits with video components are important, because they can allow for more robust checkups and evaluations, but due to distance or access to broadband, these types of appointments aren’t always possible.