Methadone Take-Home Program Extended Through 2022

Brad has been taking methadone daily for three years. He used to stand in line at the clinic every morning to get his dose. Then COVID hit. Everything shut down, and he and the other patients couldn’t get their methadone in person, as required.

So, officials changed the requirements.

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Methadone Take-Home Requirements 2022

In March of 2020, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), created a flexible take-home methadone program.

To maintain social distancing, methadone patients would no longer be required to visit an opioid treatment program (OTP) site every day to receive their methadone doses. Instead, OTPs could give patients up to 28 days of methadone take-home doses.

The policy allowed methadone providers to give four-week supplies to patients considered “stable” and two-week supplies to those who are considered less stable (usually those who have only recently started taking the medication).

This change was a radical shift from the strict guidelines OTPs previously followed. But the change was supposed to be temporary, due to the pandemic. However, the results so far seem to be successful, and SAMHSA has decided to extend the take-home program for another year. In fact, officials are considering making the change permanent.

Why the Extension for Methadone Take-Homes?

Preliminary research indicates that the methadone take-home program has been successful on several fronts. There have been few reported incidents of medication misuse or diversion of methadone for illegal sales. Plus, patient satisfaction and engagement has increased.

And, the new policy has provided greater access to treatment for people who live far from an OTP site or face transportation challenges. With fewer visits required, more people can successfully receive this treatment long-term.

And on the pandemic side of things, we’re still not in the clear. So, with the take-home program showing success as-is, officials have decided to keep it in place. The extension will minimize contact for patients and providers and continue to provide increased methadone accessibility and patient satisfaction while COVID-19 and its variants remain a concern.

Who is Impacted By the Methadone Take-Home Extension?

Currently, there are about 1,800 federally approved OTPs in the United States. In 2020, 311,531 clients were receiving methadone through substance abuse treatment facilities.

But this isn’t the full picture. If we zoom out from the treatment numbers, we see that three million people across the United States (and 16 million worldwide) have had or currently struggle with an opioid use disorder (OUD). In the U.S. alone, more than half a million people are dependent on heroin.

And, in the U.S., more than 100,000 people died in the past year from drug overdoses.

In the face of these staggering statistics, officials and researchers are looking for ways to improve treatment options and reach more people who have substance abuse disorders. The methadone take-home program extension is one of them.

Another related effort currently on the table is the Build Back Better Act.

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Build Back Better Act

This act is in the process of approval. So far, the House of Representatives has passed key portions of the Build Back Better Act (BBBA). Next, it will go before the Senate for approval, then it can be signed into law.

The goal of the BBBA is to improve addiction prevention and care. Its provisions are geared toward increasing access to addiction services.

The BBBA includes provisions to:

  • Enforce insurance coverage for addiction treatment
  • Provide Medicaid/Children’s Health Insurance Program coverage to create continuity of addiction care for prison inmates after their release

“Now is the time for bold action that will save lives and address long-standing disparities in access to addiction care.”  ~William F. Haning, III, MD

The bill also addresses the cost of prescription drugs, giving Medicare the power to negotiate medication prices.

It would also limit drug companies from raising the prices of certain medications faster than the rate of inflation.

“Now is the time for bold action that will save lives and address long-standing disparities in access to addiction care. We commend House lawmakers for passing key provisions in the BBBA and urge the Senate to pass them,” said William F. Haning, III, MD, president of the American Society of Addiction Medicine.

President Biden is pushing for the bill to pass, and referred to it as “fiscally responsible.” He noted:

“Throughout our history, we’ve emerged from crisis by investing in ourselves. And so we’re going to keep at this. We’re going to keep making progress for our families and for our nation.”

If you or someone you love is experiencing a substance use disorder, help is available. Call 800-530-0431Who Answers? today to speak with a treatment specialist.

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