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Internists Encouraged at Administration’s Acknowledgment that Opioid Crisis is a Public Health Emergency

October 26, 2017

Attributable to:
Jack Ende, MD, MACP, President, American College of Physicians

The American College of Physicians (ACP) is encouraged that President Trump and his administration are taking a step in addressing the opioid crisis in this country by declaring it a public health emergency. The declaration could allow federal health agencies to reallocate existing resources, cut "bureaucratic delays" in hiring personnel, waive a federal prohibition on using Medicaid funds to pay for inpatient substance abuse treatment, and facilitate the use of telemedicine to expand access to treatment.  However, in order to improve the situation the declaration needs to be supported by adequate funding and resources. The Public Health Emergency Fund currently contains only $57,000; clearly this amount is woefully inadequate to deal with the scope of the opioid epidemic.  Efforts need to be made to make substance use disorder treatment more accessible to those in underserved areas; we hope that today’s declaration will be used in a way that achieves that goal.

ACP urges the administration and public health officials to consider the types of recommendations made in our policy paper, Health and Public Policy to Facilitate Effective Prevention and Treatment of Substance Use Disorders Involving Illicit and Prescription Drugs, published earlier this year in Annals of Internal Medicine

Substance use disorders are treatable chronic medical conditions, like diabetes and hypertension, that should be addressed through expansion of evidence-based public and individual health initiatives to prevent, treat, and promote recovery, rather than excessive reliance on criminalization and incarceration.  ACP has put together a collection of resources under the featured topic of the opioid epidemic as part of our Online Learning Center; aimed at helping physicians to better treat patients with this issue the resources cover opioid therapy, pain management and behavioral health.

We know that by expanding access to naloxone, improving prescription drug monitoring programs, and supporting insurance coverage of opioid use disorder treatment, we can stop this epidemic and save lives.  We believe that increasing attention and devoting appropriate resources to this problem is vital.

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About the American College of Physicians

The American College of Physicians is the largest medical specialty organization in the United States with members in more than 145 countries worldwide. ACP membership includes 152,000 internal medicine physicians (internists), related subspecialists, and medical students. Internal medicine physicians are specialists who apply scientific knowledge and clinical expertise to the diagnosis, treatment, and compassionate care of adults across the spectrum from health to complex illness. Follow ACP on Twitter and Facebook.

Contact: Jackie Blaser, (202) 261-4572, jblaser@acponline.org