On Oct. 26, 2017, President Trump declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency and announced that he’d be employing the Public Health Service Act to address the epidemic. This declaration allows public health agencies to swiftly move existing health resources to the crisis; reduces delays in hiring personnel; and expands access to telemedicine, including remote prescribing of medication commonly used for substance abuse or other mental health treatment.
Following the President’s announcement, many in Congress expressed dismay that no specific funding was committed. Concerns were also raised over the balance of the fund designed to support such a declaration – the Public Health Emergency Fund, given that it only has $57,000 in it. The White House says they plan to work with Congress to add money to the fund, with the goal of including it in a year-end spending package. Congress created the fund in 1983 and designed it to be replenished up to $30 million on an annual basis. The last time Congress reauthorized the fund was in 1990 when the balance was raised to $45 million, but refunding has since ceased. Either way, these figures are well under what many experts say is needed to adequately address the problem.
On Nov. 1, President Trump’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis released its final report, a list of recommendations that include an expanded drug court system, easier access to opioid alternatives for people in pain, and a widespread media campaign to spread the word about preventive services and treatment availability for substance use disorder.
The 56 recommendations in the report also include requiring doctors and others who prescribe opioids to show they have received training in safe provision of those drugs before they can renew their licenses to handle controlled substances with the Drug Enforcement Administration. The panel also wants to mandate that all providers check prescription drug monitoring databases to ensure that users aren't “doctor shopping” for prescription drugs. In some states, use of that technology is voluntary.
Impact on General Dentistry: The AGD is currently reviewing the recommendations outlined in the White House’s Final Report. In the interim, the AGD will continue to watch the Administration’s efforts to curb opioid abuse as well as seek ways to engage policy makers on policy proposals that discourage misuse, without undermining patient care.