CHA News Article

White House Commission Declares Opioid Epidemic a National Emergency

The White House Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis last week released an interim report recommending that the President declare the nation’s opioid epidemic a national emergency. The report notes that, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, every day 142 Americans die from a drug overdose. In 2015, nearly two-thirds of overdoses were linked to opioids.

The commission, established by Executive Order in March 2017, proposes several next steps, including:

  • Rapidly increase treatment capacity by granting all 50 states waivers to eliminate barriers to treatment, notably the exclusion of the federal Institutes for Mental Diseases within the Medicaid program.
  • Mandate prescriber education initiatives related to opioid prescribing and risks of developing a substance use disorder.
  • Establish a federal incentive to enhance access to medication-assisted treatment (MAT) and require that all modes of this treatment be available at every licensed MAT facility.
  • Provide federal funding and technical support to states to enhance interstate data sharing among state-based prescription drug monitoring programs to better track patient-specific prescription data and support regional law enforcement in cases of controlled substance diversion.
  • Enforce the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act with a standardized parity compliance tool to ensure health plans cannot impose less favorable benefits for mental health and substance use diagnoses verses physical health diagnoses.

The release of this report was followed by the announcement of Elinore McCance-Katz’s approval as the nation’s first assistant secretary for mental health and substance use. McCance-Katz has focused on opioid misuse for much of her career in clinical psychiatry.