Legislator Toolkit: Resources for Strengthening Families and Communities: Improving Access to Treatment for Substance Use Disorders
Dec 09, 2021Chronic Care Issues
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This toolkit is intended to help state legislators (and others) interested in addressing the opioid epidemic in the U.S. The toolkit was jointly developed by HealthyWomen and the Legal Action Center and is partially based upon a presentation we made at a Women in Government Conference in June 2018.
The opioid epidemic has many components and causes. To address it requires multiple approaches and collaborations. Each region, state and community must consider its own situation in developing and implementing plans and actions. This tool kit is intended to support these efforts; the tool kit is organized into the following sections:
Access to Treatment
Data to Focus Efforts
Ensuring Adequate Pain Management
For perspectives on the opioid epidemic from HealthyWomen and the Legal Action Center, these links offer a broad range of information:
HealthyWomen’s Policy Center page about Opioids Use Disorder & Treatment
Legal Action Center 2015 Report: “Confronting an Epidemic: The Case for Eliminating Barriers to Medication-Assisted Treatment of Heroin and Opioid Addiction”
For more information or to add resources, contact us: policy@HealthyWomen.org
Dispelling the stigma of opioid use disorder (OUD) is a primary action for confronting a community’s problems arising from the opioid epidemic. Understanding and communicating that OUD is a medical condition, like diabetes or depression, is a first step towards comprehensive and integrated solutions that include medical, social and legal components. Such integrated approaches can lead to real progress for individuals, families and communities. Like most diseases, OUD affects all populations and communities. Its wide impact must also be recognized as part of the process of dispelling the stigma and misconceptions about OUD.
Confront the stigma and misconceptions of OUD:
Resources to help dispel the stigma of OUD:
Access to Treatment for OUD is a major barrier in many communities. Lack of access to treatment for OUD leaves people and communities with fewer opportunities for preventing or overcoming the impact of OUD, such as:
Expanding access to treatment often is a primary goal for many communities. Doing so requires recognizing that there are successful treatment options for OUD that enables people to work and live normal lives while managing their OUD.
Increasing access to OUD treatment include:
Resources to help explain the value of treatment for OUD and how to increase access:
Affordability can also be a major OUD treatment barrier for patients. As with other serious medical problems like diabetes and depression, high co-payments or deductibles can create financial hurdles preventing people from getting treatment for their OUD, which means they are essentially denied treatment.
Addressing affordability barriers for people with OUD includes:
Resources to improve affordability of treatment for OUD:
Data to Focus Efforts is Essential. Data helps focus and guide the deployment of resources for treatment programs, public health and first responders – particularly related to outbreaks of new and potentially deadly forms of opioids such as illegal fentanyl. Data is also important for determining if treatment programs and other initiatives are effective and producing the desired outcomes.
Addressing how to improve the availability and use of data includes:
Resources for developing and using data to address opioid problems in a community:
Collaborations among government agencies and private organizations is important for comprehensive community and regional responses to the opioid epidemic.
Areas for improving collaboration and coordination related to OUD include:
Resources about collaborating on improving access to treatment, affordability, data and other avenues for coordinating programs to support better treatment for OUD and responses to the opioid epidemic:
Ensuring adequate pain management for patients (for individuals with and without OUD), needs considered, since well-intentioned approaches to the opioid epidemic may restrict access to prescription opioids. These unintended restrictions could leave people with terminal illnesses (such as cancer), and those with chronic pain conditions, without proper pain management. Part of the solution for these individuals is promoting better integrated and multi-modal pain management approaches that both utilizes opioid medicines (when appropriate). Treatments that have been shown to be successful, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), physical therapy, acupuncture and other non-pharmacological treatment, must also be considered.
Exploring how to ensure access to adequate pain treatments is beyond the scope of this toolkit, but links to some resources are provided below, and community leaders should consult with their local experts as they develop plans and implement initiatives to address the opioid epidemic.
Resources about ensuring adequate pain treatments include:
Additional resources and background information for community and legislative leaders to combat the opioid epidemic and improve treatment for OUD include: