October 3, 2018 – The American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA) commends the U.S. Congress for its passage of a comprehensive, bipartisan package to support the prevention and treatment of opioid addiction in America. After approval by the House of Representatives last week and passage by the Senate today, H.R. 6, SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act now awaits the President’s signature.
“We appreciate the thorough consideration the House and Senate gave to developing a package that will provide significant resources and regulations needed to affect meaningful change to the opioid crisis,” said Garry Brydges, CRNA, president of the 53,000 member AANA. “Specifically, by providing advanced practice registered nurses the ability to administer medication-assisted treatment (MAT), Congress has provided immediate help to patients struggling with addiction, especially in rural settings where alternative resources are scarce and addiction is rampant.”
Section 3201 of the SUPPORT Act increases the number of waivered health providers that can prescribe MAT – the use of medications with counseling and behavioral therapies to prevent and treat opioid abuse – by authorizing for five years clinical nurse specialists, Certified Nurse Midwives, and Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs) to prescribe buprenorphine. In addition, the provision makes permanent this prescribing authority for physician assistants and nurse practitioners from the Drug Addiction Treatment Act of 2000.
“With this new law there are now nearly 53,000 CRNAs who can treat opioid addictions with medications such as buprenorphine, which ease withdrawal symptoms and improve treatment outcomes,” Brydges said. “Many of these CRNAs are practicing in rural and underserved communities where access to addiction prevention and treatment services is limited—there are either no qualified providers currently working in the area or they’re overwhelmed by the large number of patients, which results in extended wait times.”
According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, only 10 percent of people who need opioid addiction treatment actually receive it. Further, a recent study by the Drug Enforcement Agency determined that expanding prescriptive authority would save communities hundreds of millions of dollars due to reduced medical costs for emergency room visits.
“Expanding the number of qualified professionals who are eligible to treat opioid use disorder will provide greater access to treatment for patients in need without overburdening physicians,” Brydges said.
As pain management experts, CRNAs are implementing opioid-reducing and opioid-sparing techniques in addition to MAT, such as Enhanced Recovery after Surgery, which improves outcomes and reduces costs.
For more information about CRNAs and the critical role they play in providing exceptional anesthesia care and pain management in all healthcare settings, visit www.future-of-anesthesia-care-today.com.