Now that the U.S. Senate and House have individually passed bills to help address the nation’s opioid epidemic, the American Psychological Association (APA) is urging Congress to sign legislation into law this year.

The bills include several provisions that will help reduce overuse of opioid prescriptions and increase access to substance use treatment, recovery and support services. The APA says it’s sharing recommendations with Congress to improve the legislation.

A 10 percent rise in overdose fatalities

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that more than 72,000 Americans died of a drug overdose in 2017 – a nearly 10 percent increase over the previous year.

The organization called legislation “a step in the right direction” but says more action is needed.

“We cannot counter the opioid epidemic without developing an effective, evidence-based substance abuse treatment system,” said Arthur C. Evans Jr., PhD, CEO of the APA. “In fact, only about one in 10 Americans with a substance use disorder receives adequate treatment, and this statistic won’t change without major new investments in the full spectrum of prevention, treatment and recovery services. We did this for HIV/AIDS, and now we need to do it with opioids.”

What else is needed

Evans called on policymakers to prioritize work in the following areas:

  • Promoting nonpharmacologic treatment for chronic pain, and increasing access to integrated pain management services, including treatment for comorbid mental health and substance use disorders.
  • Providing a comprehensive continuum of services for those addicted to opioids, including psychotherapy and counseling as part of medication-assisted treatment (MAT) and other psychosocial interventions beyond MAT.
  • Promoting the adoption of electronic health records by mental health and substance use treatment providers to foster the delivery of high-quality, coordinated and integrated health care services.
  • Providing recovery support services, including housing, education and supported employment for those struggling with addiction.
  • Expanding the mental health and substance use treatment provider workforce, and improving health care providers’ effectiveness through education and training.
  • Increasing investments in research on psychosocial interventions to prevent and treat chronic pain, opioid addiction and other substance use disorders.

Improving the service delivery system by making administrative and infrastructure changes, including strengthening the enforcement of mental health and substance use parity laws, reforming payment systems, changing child welfare system processes so that families affected by opioid addiction are kept together, and improving the availability and quality of services provided by drug courts.


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