Senators introduce legislation to expand substance use training for healthcare providers

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A bipartisan bill introduced Tuesday by U. S. Sens. Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Susan Collins (R- ME) would standardize training on opioid and substance use for healthcare providers.

Called the Medication Access and Training Expansion (MATE) Act, the legislation would require physicians, physicians’ assistants, nurses, nurse practitioners, and other health care providers to complete training on opioid and substance use to ensure that they have a base of knowledge surrounding addiction prevention, treatment, and management.

In Colorado, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) found that fatal drug overdoses increased nine percent in 2019, after falling slightly in 2018. Experts across the country predict even higher rates for 2020 that will be exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The legislators said that their legislation would help address the addiction crisis by standardizing evidence-based addiction prevention training.

“While our country grapples with the coronavirus, another epidemic has continued to rage. Across Colorado and the country, opioid use and other substance use disorders continue to devastate families and communities,” Bennet said. “We must fight this crisis from every angle, which includes addressing the stigma of addiction that persists even within the medical community. The MATE Act will better equip our health care system to identify, treat, and prevent addiction, as well as improve pain management by educating providers, addressing racial bias, and standardizing training nationwide.”

Companion legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives was introduced in November 2019 by U.S. Representatives Lori Trahan (D-MA) and Jack Bergman (R-MI).

“As the nation continues to combat COVID-19, we must not forget another public health emergency our country faces—the opioid epidemic. No community is immune from this crisis, which has been exacerbated by COVID-19 and has already claimed the life of more than one Mainer per day last year,” Collins said. “Our bipartisan bill would ensure that all health care professionals who prescribe controlled substances are also equipped with the tools and training they need to prevent, identify, and treat addiction. The opioid crisis requires an all-of-the-above approach, but increased access to evidence-based addiction prevention and treatment is a critical component of supporting those in need and ultimately tackling this crisis.”

The legislation would require all federally controlled substance prescribers to complete a one-time training on treating and managing patients with opioid and other substance use disorders, and encourage medical schools and advanced nursing schools to incorporate addiction treatment into their programs of study.

The legislation is endorsed by the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM), The Kennedy Forum, Shatterproof, Partnership to End Addiction, SMART Recovery, National Hispanic Medical Association, and the National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers.

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