The United States
has a growing need for behavioral health professionals who understand addiction—and specifically opioid addiction. According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data, 175 Americans died daily from drug overdoses in 20161
(the most recent year for which full data have been tallied), and 66 percent of those were from opioids.2
That’s why Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Abuse Elinore McCance–Katz, M.D., Ph.D., officials from SAMHSA, and SAMHSA contractors were among the more than 2,100 medical professionals attending the American Association for the Treatment of Opioid Dependence, Inc. (AATOD), annual conference in New York City, March 10–14. The AATOD conference, cosponsored by New York state’s Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services and the Coalition of Medication Treatment Providers Advocates, is regarded as the opioid treatment community’s most significant annual gathering.
Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Abuse Speaks in Closing Plenary
Dr. McCance–Katz presented during the conference’s closing plenary session March 13, discussing the Trump Administration’s efforts to improve access to treatment, recovery, and prevention. More than 2.1 million Americans are currently struggling with an opioid use disorder, she noted, but only 20 percent with such a disorder are receiving specialty addiction treatment.2
The Assistant Secretary outlined the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ five-point opioid strategy, consisting of
- Strengthening public health surveillance
- Advancing the practice of pain management
- Improving access to treatment and recovery services
- Targeting availability and distribution of overdose-reversing drugs
- Supporting cutting-edge research2
Dr. McCance–Katz and SAMHSA support developing the workforce by encouraging training in the Drug Addiction Treatment Act (DATA Waiver) in pregraduate settings: in medical school, in advanced-practice nursing, and in physician assistant programs.
“SAMHSA,” Dr. McCance–Katz explained,“ is expanding its programs that provide direct technical assistance and training to healthcare professionals.”
She noted that, as the opioid epidemic continues to evolve, the healthcare and behavioral healthcare communities must concentrate on addressing the underlying contributors to the problem—inappropriate prescribing and a lack of evidence-based treatment—and on improving prevention and public awareness.
SAMHSA Contractor Presents on Areas of
Country Lacking Buprenorphine Prescribers
SAMHSA contractor Development Services Group, Inc. (DSG), presented information to conferencegoers about DATA Waiver and the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2016, legislation that, among other things, enables physicians, physician assistants, and nurse practitioners to prescribe buprenorphine to patients struggling with opioid addiction. DSG displayed U.S. and state maps illustrating the nation’s geographical areas of critical need—where opioid addiction badly outstrips the number of physicians licensed to prescribe buprenorphine. SAMHSA also distributed information on medications for opioid use disorders and on how to obtain medication-assisted training (known as x-waivers).
Work Continues to Increase Number of
SAMHSA public health advisors Wilmarie Hernandez and Ivette Ruiz attended the AATOD conference and were encouraged by the number of practitioners visiting the SAMHSA contractor’s exhibit, as well as by the wealth of information disseminated to increase the number practitioners intending to become certified.
SAMSHA and its DATA Waiver contractor continue their work to increase the number of practitioners becoming MAT certified, currently near 50,000 nationwide, and to raise public awareness about the opioid epidemic and ways to combat it.
MFP Fellows Should Save the
Date for Next Year’s Meeting
With the Trump Administration and Dr. McCance–Katz pouring energy into fighting the nation’s opioid crisis, many MFP Fellows would be wise to consider how to add knowledge of opioid issues to their portfolios. Next year’s AATOD conference will take place Oct. 19–23 at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort in Orlando, Fla.
Watch the Minority Fellowship E-News for updates.
1As reported by National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2017). Overdose death rates. Rockville, Md.: Author.
2McCance–Katz, E. (2018). SAMHSA/HHS: An update on the opioid crisis. Rockville, Md.: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.