Comprehensive approach to opioid use disorder treatment lacking in most states, study says

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Governments at the federal and state levels established opioid use disorder treatment programs during the pandemic, but few states took a comprehensive approach to treating the condition, according to a study published Nov. 19 in JAMA Health Forum.

The research team examined policies adopted by states during the pandemic, focusing on four areas: telehealth, privacy, licensing and medication for opioid use disorder. The study was conducted from March 2020 to January 2021.

Here are five key findings:

  1. All states adopted at least one telehealth policy, but only 17 adopted telehealth policies that improve access to OUD treatment for new patients.

  2. Forty-four states expanded access to medication for OUD treatment.

  3. Only nine states relaxed privacy laws, which affects the ability to use certain technology during telehealth visits.

  4. All states adopted at least one policy related to healthcare professional licensing permissions, but only 35 expanded practice laws for physician assistants and nurse practitioners.

  5. The researchers said evaluation of opioid use disorder treatment programs established during the pandemic "must account for the variation in state approaches in related policy areas because the interactions between policies may limit the potential effectiveness of any single policy approach."
 

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