As Overdoses Rise During Pandemic, Pew Calls on Senate Committee to Expand Addiction Care

Policy changes could improve access to treatment and save lives

On April 28, The Pew Charitable Trusts’ substance use prevention and treatment initiative submitted a letter for the record to the leaders of the U.S. Senate’s Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions regarding a hearing on lessons learned during the COVID-19 pandemic on addressing mental health and substance use disorders. Following new, provisional data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that predicts (prior to the release of final figures) a 29% rise in overdose deaths—to more than 90,000 people—in the 12-month period ending in September 2020, Pew says the pandemic has underscored the need for policy changes that increase access to lifesaving treatment for opioid use disorder (OUD). Such actions include passing the Mainstreaming Addiction Treatment Act (S. 445) to remove outdated federal rules restricting the prescribing of buprenorphine and urging federal agencies to permanently extend pandemic-era telemedicine and methadone dosing flexibilities, all of which would expand access to effective treatment services for OUD.

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