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As Opioid Use Grows, Murphy Calls For More Addiction Treatment

U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) is calling on the Department of Health and Human Services to update a website maintained by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) that provides a list of buprenorphine prescribers.
U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) is calling on the Department of Health and Human Services to update a website maintained by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) that provides a list of buprenorphine prescribers. Photo Credit: Chris Murphy

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. -- As Connecticut and the nation continue to be ravaged by the growing opioid and heroin addiction epidemic, U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) Wednesday urged the Department of Health and Human Services to take all necessary steps to ensure that those seeking treatment for addiction have greater access to medication-assisted treatment such as buprenorphine.

Buprenorphine is an FDA-approved medication that helps people end their use of opiates and is typically prescribed as part of a broader treatment plan with counseling and other support programs.

In a letter to HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell, Murphy explained that a WTNH News8 investigation recently revealed that the Buprenorphine Treatment Physician Locator – a critical website maintained by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration that provides a list of buprenorphine prescribers – is severely outdated.

“I write to you today regarding the ongoing opioid crisis that is affecting the nation, and to bring to your attention an important element of a comprehensive response, the Buprenorphine Treatment Physician Locator. Unfortunately, a recent news investigation by WTNH News8 in Connecticut indicated that the list is out-of-date and a poor resource for those seeking treatment. After calling each of the doctors listed for Connecticut, investigators found that only 30 percent of the listed doctors are currently treating patients with opiate addiction with a type of buprenorphine, and only 60 percent of those physicians had capacity for new patients,” wrote Murphy.

“However, my understanding is that SAMHSA is currently prohibited from proactively reaching out to physicians to ensure that the physician is treating patients with buprenorphine or whether they have the ability to see new patients. I would urge you to take all necessary steps to ensure this outreach happens on a more regular basis. Reliable and current information is critical to providing Americans with the most accurate picture of the treatment network in their state.”

According to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner of Connecticut, 723 people died as a result of a drug overdose in Connecticut in 2015 – double the number of deaths as a result of a drug overdose from just 2012.

Murphy, a member of the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, has called on Congress to pass his bipartisan Mental Health Reform Act, which will expand federal resources and improve coordination for mental health and substance abuse treatment programs.

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