SUPPORT for Patients and Communities ActH.R. 6, the Substance Use-Disorder Prevention that Promotes Opioid Recovery and Treatment (SUPPORT) for Patients and Communities Act, is a bipartisan bill aimed at addressing the nation’s opioid overdose epidemic. This legislation was developed to teach the country about addiction medicine by strengthening the workforce within this area, standardize the delivery of addiction medicine to all individuals while increasing access to care and providing high-quality, evidence-based practices, and provide better coverage for addiction medicine so more individuals can afford to receive care at comprehensive treatment facilities.

Taking a more in-depth look at the legislation

This bill educates pharmacists and healthcare providers provides greater access to addiction treatment, breaks down the financial barriers to treatment, cracks down on the illegal distribution and trafficking of opioids, ensures access to sober living, to provide more education to the public about illicit drugs and much more. The following are a few of the sections that this bill covers:

  • The bill prohibits termination of Medicaid eligibility for juveniles who are inmates of public institutions.
  • The bill allows state Medicaid programs to include residential pediatric recovery center services for infants with neonatal abstinence syndrome.
  • The bill exempts substance-use disorder telehealth services from specified requirements, such as geographic restrictions, under Medicare.
  • The bill requires the FDA to halt the distribution of a controlled substance that is found to be a public hazard and, if appropriate, order the controlled substance to be recalled.
  • The bill increases the maximum number of patients that health care practitioners may initially treat with medication-assisted treatment (i.e., under a buprenorphine waiver).
  • The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) must develop training programs and materials on the circumstances under which a pharmacist may refuse to fill a controlled substance prescription suspected to be fraudulent, forged, or of suspicious origin.
  • The bill authorizes a grant program, based on funding formulas determined by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, to help states provide temporary housing for individuals who are in recovery from a substance-use disorder.
  • The bill requires HHS and the Surgeon General to report on the health effects of new psychoactive substances (also known as “synthetic drugs”) that are used by adolescents and young adults. Examples of synthetic drugs include synthetic marijuana (also known as “spice”) and synthetic amphetamines (also known as “bath salts”).

What does this mean for the opioid epidemic?

The opioid epidemic has been ravishing through the United States of America since the 1990s, and it has been worsening over the years. According to statistics from the Center for Disease Control, the number of individuals who have died from opioid overdose since 1999 has nearly quadrupled, and in 2014, the most recent year for which statistics are available, more than 28,000 individuals died from opioid overdose, and more than half of these numbers were from prescription opioids such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine, fentanyl, and morphine.  Opioid prescriptions have skyrocketed, and approximately 80% of new heroin users became hooked after beginning to take opioid prescription pain medications for nonmedical reasons. H.R. 6, the Substance Use-Disorder Prevention that Promotes Opioid Recovery and Treatment (SUPPORT) for Patients and Communities Act, is aiming to prevent and treat the opioid epidemic by first cracking down on forged prescriptions and requiring an electronic system where all providers must enter any controlled prescription data for each patient before they prescribe a new prescription. By first regulating prescriptions through healthcare providers and cracking down on the transport and smuggling of opioids, the hope is to prevent addiction before it happens. In regards to individuals who are struggling with addiction regardless if they are in treatment or not, this bill aims to provide more affordable coverage for everyone in need of addiction treatment and to eliminate the stigma associated with opioid addiction.