Dear Members of the Pennsylvania House of Human Services Committee,
We, the undersigned organizations, urge you to say “no” to SB 675 in its current form. Instead, we urge you to work on the development of evidence-based policy that saves lives and advances our fight against the opioid crisis in Pennsylvania.
We appreciate that SB 675 was developed with the good intention to counter bad-actor cash clinics and to deter abuse, misuse, and diversion of FDA-approved medications for the treatment of opioid use disorder (OUD). Unfortunately, in its current form SB 675 creates significant barriers to the delivery of evidence based care.
Access to Office-Based Opioid Treatment (OBOT) is severely limited in Pennsylvania. In a state where the overdose death rate is twice the national average and our rank for overdose deaths is third in the country we should be exploring ways to improve access to evidence based treatment, lower barriers, decrease stigma and improve engagement.
Our current opioid and overdose crisis compels us to act and focus on delivering the best care to some of the most marginalized populations. We do this by expanding our professional addiction treatment community and supporting them in every way possible because their success means we save lives.
Healthcare professionals that treat substance use disorders are highly trained and regulated. SB 675 adds certification requirements that duplicate what the federal government already has in place. This barrier adds another hurdle to a system that is already unable to deliver treatment we know saves lives.
Currently there is a large movement within the addiction medicine community to deregulate the prescription of buprenorphine. (see Buprenorphine Deregulation and Mainstreaming Treatment for Opioid Use Disorder) This is based on the evidence that buprenorphine lowers morbidity and mortality from opioid use disorder. We also have quality data from many countries that show when access to this medication is expanded, overdose deaths fall, more people engage in treatment, and lives are improved. A review of France’s push to improve access to buprenorphine in the 1990s demonstrated a 79% drop in overdose deaths too. This cannot be ignored and highlights the importance of moving towards less regulation and improved access to buprenorphine.
SB 675 also raises fees on Pennsylvania’s insufficient supply of qualified health care professionals offering OUD treatment services, and limits the recognition of needed counselors and psychosocial support personnel. In its current form, this bill does not address the underlying issues that fuel cash clinics, abuse, misuse, and drug diversion. SB 675 is not the answer to our current overdose crisis. It weakens our current system of care, impedes access to evidence based treatment, and further stigmatizes the care of a population that need us most.
We urge the committee to work with all stakeholders to collaboratively yield solutions that are proven, and can be enacted to save lives in our Commonwealth. We encourage the Committee to consider policies recently adopted and implemented in our nearby states of Virginia and New Jersey which strengthen access to treatment by qualified health care professionals while eliminating cash clinics and reducing abuse, misuse and diversion.