The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the nation’s top health care regulator, is tackling three major initiatives in the behavioral health space in 2022 as we continue to find our “new normal” and learn to live with COVID19.
The document states that “the COVID-19 pandemic has made clear that too many Americans have unmet behavioral health needs, which have seen an alarming rise during the pandemic due to illness, grief, job loss, food insecurity, and isolation.”
Health and Human Services hopes to initiate two new regulations in the behavioral health space in 2022:
- Make permanent a rule that allows for opioid-use disorder treatment providers to give extended take-home doses of methadone
- Allow for buprenorphine to be administered via telehealth
Typically, methadone is administered under the supervision of a physician, but back in March 2020 HHS allowed some flexibility in this treatment. HHS allowed opioid treatment providers to dispense 28 days’ worth of take-home methadone doses — an opioid used to help treat opioid addiction — for stable patients and up to 14 days’ worth of medication for less stable patients. These allowances were a social distancing protocol in the early days of the pandemic.
HHS reported that “there are very few reports of diversion or overdose, and the provision of extended take-home doses facilitates patient engagement in activities, such as employment, that support recovery,” the Substance Use and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the part of HHS that specifically oversees addiction treatment regulation, said in its explanation for the rule. Another benefit to this new rule is those who have limited access to transportation no longer needed to be at the opioid provider location each day, making it more convenient and more easily taken.
Another trend that emerged in behavioral health due to COVID is telehealth. Buprenorphine, also an opioid is used in Medicated Assisted Treatments and telehealth has been vital in ensuring access to this treatment while still staying safe during the pandemic. SAMHSA hopes to make this a permanent change coming out of the pandemic.
Many life altering changes occurred during COVID, so for the worse and some for the better. These changes to telehealth in the behavioral health industry have benefited both patient and provider and HHS is forecasting these trends to stay long term.
At Emerald Psychiatry we are here to help. We offer telehealth services and our providers can administer buprenorphine. To learn more about our services and what we treat, click here.
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