In Part I of this series, we explored the dynamic changes in the regulatory and business landscape within the behavioral health industry since the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic. One significant obstacle to effective and accessible substance use treatment has been the presence of outdated and ineffective regulations.
In this blog, we delve deeper into the transformative regulatory adjustments impacting the substance use field. Specifically, we'll focus on the elimination of the X-Waiver and the extension of COVID-19 telehealth flexibilities, particularly in relation to virtual Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) and Medications for Opioid Use Disorder (MOUD) treatment.
X-WAIVER ELIMINATION EXPANDS PATIENT ACCESS TO MOUD
Previously, the X-Waiver was a mandatory requirement for healthcare practitioners prescribing medications like buprenorphine to treat opioid use disorder (OUD). These practitioners had to fulfill specific educational requirements (SAMHSA, 2023) and were subject to patient limits based on their experience (ASHP, 2023). However, the recent elimination of the X-Waiver has removed these patient limits, granting prescribing practitioners greater flexibility in delivering treatment (ASHP, 2023). It's important to note that educational requirements still remain, and individual states may have additional criteria to consider (SAMHSA, 2023). These changes hold the promise of increased accessibility to buprenorphine and similar medications for those in need.
MAT FOR OUD CAN STILL BE ACCESSED VIA TELEHEALTH
Another big change is related to telemedicine flexibilities for prescribing medications for opioid use disorder (MOUD)/medication-assisted treatment (MAT). The Ryan Haight Act, with some exceptions, required a prescriber to conduct an in-person evaluation of a patient prior to prescribing controlled substances through telemedicine (DEA, 2023). This rule, in large part, has made it difficult to conduct 100% virtual MOUD/MAT treatment, but flexibility was allowed during the COVID-19 pandemic so that these life-saving medications could be delivered to patients 100% virtually. The DEA has extended those flexibilities from the COVID-19 pandemic through November 11, 2023. In addition, people who have established care with a provider as of the November 11, 2023 date will be permitted to continue receiving MAT/MOUD through telemedicine until November 11, 2024 (DEA, 2023). The DEA is reviewing public comments and considering potential revisions to proposed rules (DEA, 2023).
HOW WE CAN HELP
At Ascension Recovery Services, our mission is to ensure that individuals have access to high-quality and effective care for their behavioral health needs. We have established MOUD/MAT programs and various behavioral health services nationwide. One key aspect of our approach is the implementation of telehealth services, as we recognize their potential to significantly enhance access to care. Telehealth has proven to be a powerful tool, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, and we believe it should continue to be utilized, especially as ample evidence shows it is as beneficial as in-person services across various cases.
Take the first step towards expanding access to effective care and implementing MOUD/MAT programs by reaching out to Ascension Recovery Services today. Our dedicated team is ready to provide guidance, support, and expertise in establishing these essential programs within your organization or community. Together, we can make a difference in transforming lives and combating the challenges of behavioral health. Contact us now to explore how we can collaborate and create a lasting impact by emailing email@example.com or by calling 304.503.3448.
ASHP. (2023, Jan 13). DEA and SAMHSA Eliminate X-Waiver Requirements. https://www.ashp.org/news/2023/01/13/dea-and-samhsa-eliminate-x-waiver-requirements?loginreturnUrl=SSOCheckOnly
DEA. (2023). Temporary Extension of COVID-19 Telemedicine Flexibilities for Prescription of Controlled Medications.
SAMHSA. (2023, Jun 7). Waiver Elimination (MAT Act). https://www.samhsa.gov/medications-substance-use-disorders/waiver-elimination-mat-act