John Delaney's plan for Combating the Opioid Epidemic

In 2017, more than 47,000 people in the United States died from a drug overdose involving an opioid. That’s an average of 130 people dying every day. 

Opioids, used improperly or for an excessive amount of time, are dangerous drugs that are a threat to public health. According to the White House Council of Economic Advisors, the opioid epidemic cost our economy $504 billion dollars in 2015 – 2.8% of GDP.1 This includes increased healthcare costs, increased criminal justice costs, decreased productivity, and – most importantly – the loss of human life.

The costs are staggering. A recent study2 found that individuals who took non-opioid pain medications over the course of 12 months for chronic back, hip, or knee pain had similar pain-related function compared to those on opioid medications, but reported significantly less pain intensity and had fewer adverse medication-related symptoms.

As president, Delaney would implement policies to not only address the scope of the ongoing epidemic, but support policies to prevent new cases of addiction. 

Prevention

  • Require physicians who prescribe opioids for longer than 3 days to have the patient sign a disclosure that clearly explains the addictive nature of opioids and of the potential for addiction the longer the patient takes the opioid. Education can be one of the best tools to prevent opioid addiction by ensuring the doctor and the patient have a frank and honest conversation about the drug.
  • Require prescriber education on safe opioid prescribing.
  • Expand access to alternative pain management options including physical therapy, and non-opioid medication and treatments.
    • Require federal, state, and private payers to cover non-opioidpain treatments without significant copayments or administrative barriers.  
    • Continue and expand investment in medical research into non-opioid pain treatments. 
  • Strengthen federal enforcement efforts through DEA, CBP, FDA, etc. to reduce the supply of illicit opioids and the diversion of prescriptionopioids.
  • Hold pharmaceutical executives responsible for their part in fueling the opioid epidemic.

Treatment

  • Ensure Access to Evidence-Based Substance Use Disorder Treatment
    • Maintain federal funding to states (STR and SOR grants) to build out treatment capacity or help states develop other sustainable funding streams to maintain access, particularly in underserved communities.
    • Enforce and expand mental health parity laws. 
    • Require federal, state, and private payers to cover medication assisted treatment and behavioral health counseling without significant copayments or administrative barriers. 
    • Invest in workforce development and training for mental healthcare workers.
    • Create new and build on existing incentives like the National Health Service Corps to attract medical professionals to underserved communities. 
    • Expand access to evidence-based substance use disorder treatment in the criminal justice system. 
  • Strengthen and expand programs to help pregnant and post-partum women get access to treatment as well as programs to provide short- and long-term care to children born with neonatal abstinence syndrome. 
    • Expand the use of telemedicine. 
  • Invest in Recovery
    • Invest in programs to help those in recovery stay in recovery through job training and placement services, housing support, and other social services that help people rebuild their lives. 
  • Funding for programs
    • Create a new block grant for states that would be funded by implementing a 2 cent tax on morphine milligram equivalents in a prescription pain pill.  
  1. WhiteHouse.gov
  2. NCBI