State AGs push to 'tackle the opioid crisis head on'

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel has joined 38 other attorneys general in urging congressional leadership in both chambers to remove the federal barriers that currently prevent health care providers at the state level from offering treatment for opioid use disorder.

“My colleagues and I recognize we must evolve in our approach to combatting this threat to our public health at the state level,” said Nessel “We cannot protect those who suffer from opioid addiction in our states without pushing for change in the way records are released to providers and encouraging impactful legislation to advance treatment for those suffering from addiction.”

The attorneys general argue that the same privacy rules found in the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) should replace the current federal privacy rules that pertain to the use and disclosure of a patient’s substance use disorder treatment records. While initially put in place at a time when an intense stigma surrounded substance use disorder treatment, the attorneys general find the current rules perpetuate that stigma by keeping records of treatment withheld from other providers in ways that records of treatment of other chronic diseases are not.

The attorneys general also note that the inability to share records among providers can infringe on coordination of care, potentially result in harm to a patient, and ultimately make it difficult to investigate instances such as overprescribing.

“The fact is our residents here in Michigan are suffering both directly and indirectly from the effects of opioid addiction. This bipartisan effort clearly shows the rest of the country is as well,” said Nessel. “It’s time for our federal government to empower us to tackle the opioid crisis head on.”

Nessel joins the attorneys general of Alaska, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin in submitting this letter.

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