President Trump recently signed the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act into law. This legislation represents the culmination of nearly a year of work in Congress and is the latest in a series of congressional efforts intended to address the national opioid epidemic.
After a sustained period of advocacy by PAEA members, AAPA, and the 2018 Student Health Policy Fellows, among numerous other stakeholders, congressional negotiators included two key provisions in the final package that are designed to bolster the PA response to the opioid epidemic.
The first is a key provision for ensuring the long-term sustainability of PAEA’s MAT Waiver Training Initiative, which grants PAs permanent eligibility to receive the Drug Enforcement Administration waiver necessary to prescribe buprenorphine to treat opioid use disorder. Under the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2016, a pilot program was established allowing waivered PAs and NPs to prescribe buprenorphine for five years, a program originally set to expire in 2021. But now the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act makes eligibility for this waiver permanent for PAs and NPs.
The second high-priority item that was included in the package is an amended version of the Substance Use Disorder Workforce Loan Repayment Act. This provision would allow for loan repayment of up to $250,000 for certain health professionals, including PAs, in exchange for practicing in substance use disorder treatment facilities. In the final bill, this program was authorized at $25 million annually through FY 2023. It is important to note that in order to implement the program, Congress will need to provide funding in the form of annual appropriations — a priority for which PAEA will continue to advocate.
The inclusion of these provisions in the final bill was made possible thanks to the strong response by PA advocates to requests from PAEA and AAPA to contact their members of Congress. As always, we thank the PA education community for its ongoing participation in our shared work.
If you have questions about the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act, please contact advocacy@PAEAonline.org. For more information on PAEA’s MAT Waiver Training Initiative, contact John Lopes at jlopes@PAEAonline.org.