Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) has forwarded correspondence to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) as a means of addressing delays preventing telehealth treatment for those with substance use disorders.
Warner said he is urging the DEA to finalize a rule that ensuring providers can successfully use telehealth to treat their substance use disorder patients.
“Providers across the country have been frustrated in their inability to provide adequate care as they wait for Congressionally-mandated guidance from your agency to clarify the process whereby health care professionals can legally use telehealth to better treat patients suffering from substance use disorder,” Warner wrote in correspondence addressed to Acting DEA Administrator Uttam Dhillon. “The DEA’s failure to promulgate the rule has meant that – despite Congress’ best efforts – many patients suffering from substance use disorders remain unable to access treatment via telehealth. These patients cannot afford to wait and we are concerned the DEA is standing in the way of treatment for individuals that cannot access a provider in person – particularly those in rural and underserved areas.”
Warner helped draft and pass the Senate’s comprehensive substance abuse treatment bill, which included a provision directing the Department of Justice, in consultation with the Department of Health and Human Services, to create a process for exempting certain health care providers for the purpose of providing telehealth services for substance use disorder.
“The opioid and addiction epidemic has devastated communities nationwide, with a particularly devastating impact on rural and medically underserved areas,” Warner concluded. “Expanding telehealth services to individuals suffering from substance use disorder can bridge the distance between patients and care and ensure increased access to services they need.”
Warner requested the DEA provide an explanation if it does not intend to promulgate rulemaking on the issue in a timely manner.