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Attorney General Hunter, OSU’s Dr. Beaman Comment on Removal of Federal Barriers to Treat Opioid Addiction

OKLAHOMA CITY – Attorney General Mike Hunter and OSU Center for Health Sciences Dr. Jason Beaman today praised the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for removing federal barriers that hindered health care professionals treating opioid addiction.

The new guidelines expand access to medication-assisted treatment by exempting physicians from certain certification requirements needed to prescribe buprenorphine for opioid addiction treatment.

In 2019, Attorney General Hunter led a bipartisan, 39 state coalition in sending a letter to Congressional leadership urging the move.

“This is a significant step in the right direction in our battle with the nation’s opioid crisis that has been amplified by the Covid-19 pandemic,” Attorney General Hunter said. “By eliminating barriers and giving doctors the authority to do what they believe is in the best interest of their patients struggling with opioid addiction will save lives. I commend the leadership at HHS, and everyone involved in this decision, for their meaningful action that will benefit those who are struggling with this deadly brain disease.

“I also appreciate the widespread support from state leaders like Dr. Beaman and the members on the Commission on Opioid Abuse, as well as other state entities, that have been behind this effort. While there is more work to do in our fight against the opioid epidemic, this gives doctors an important tool that is proven to help.”

During the 12-month period ending in June 2020, the United States experienced a 21% increase in overdose deaths, representing the highest number ever recorded in a 12-month timeframe according to provisional data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

During that same timeframe, the data show Oklahoma experienced a 14.9% spike in overdose deaths.  

“What’s more tragic about the current spike in overdose deaths is that it’s likely an undercount due to incomplete data,” said Dr. Beaman, who serves as Chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences. “That is why removing these barriers, expanding access to medication-assisted treatment and giving physicians more latitude to treat those struggling with addiction is critical. Medication-assisted treatment is a proven, individually personalized program that comprehensively addresses the needs of those struggling with addiction.

“I could not be happier with this announcement. I know it also would not have been possible without the leadership of individuals like Attorney General Hunter, who have been on the front lines with health care providers in our mission to end this crisis and get Oklahomans well.”  

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s website states, medication-assisted treatment is proven to be clinically effective and helps to significantly reduce the need for inpatient detoxification services for individuals. 

The treatment approach has been shown to improve patient survival, increase retention in treatment and improve birth outcomes among women who have substance use disorders and are pregnant, among other positive outcomes.