WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Gary Peters (D-MI) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) today introduced legislation that will help expand access to opioid addiction treatment for adolescents. The Youth Opioid Use Treatment Help (YOUTH) Act will renew an existing substance abuse program at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) and establish a demonstration program that will expand access to medication to treat adolescents suffering from opioid addiction. According to SAMSHA, 276,000 American adolescents used opioids for nonmedical reasons in 2015. The Centers for Disease Control recently reported that from 2014 to 2015 the drug overdose rate increased 19 percent for teens and has more than doubled since 1999.
“The opioid epidemic has devastated communities across the country, and it’s tragic that hundreds of thousands of young people suffering from opioid addiction are struggling to get the care they need,” said Senator Peters. “This bipartisan bill would help hospitals and other health care providers expand lifesaving addiction treatments and care to adolescents and set them on a path toward recovery.”
“The opioid epidemic has had devastating effects on our state, especially when it comes to our West Virginia teens and young adults. We are losing an entire generation to drug crisis, and we have to take bold action to put an end to this tragic trend,” Senator Capito said. “The bipartisan YOUTH Act will help children and young adults access the resources they need to both treat and prevent addiction. By addressing the problem early on, we can stop even more young people in West Virginia and across the country from becoming victims of this growing epidemic.”
“There are currently too many young people struggling with opioid addiction who can benefit from Medication Assisted Treatment but are not receiving it. An increased focus on youth and emerging adults is an important piece of stemming the opioid crisis, and this bill will help understand and expand MAT and reduce addiction and overdose among adolescents.” said Dr. Rebecca Cunningham, Director of the University of Michigan Injury Center and Member of the Michigan Prescription Drug and Opioid Abuse Commission.
The use of certain medications – such as buprenorphine – has been shown to be a safe and effective treatment for opioid addiction and improves success rates for continuing treatment and recovery. Medication assisted treatment (MAT) with buprenorphine and other effective drugs is an essential public health tool to prevent future loss of life for those suffering from opioid addiction. However, MAT is often designed for adults, making it more difficult for adolescents to access this proven treatment.
The YOUTH Act establishes a demonstration program to expand the use of MAT for adolescents. The demonstration program authorizes the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) to award grants to hospitals, local governments and other eligible entities to expand adolescents’ access to MAT, identify and test solutions for overcoming barriers to access, and provide resources on adolescent MAT training and implementation.
The legislation also requires AHRQ to receive regular progress reports from grantees and to submit a report to Congress that details the availability of MAT for young adults and adolescents, the effectiveness of existing treatment and prevention programs, unintended consequences of programs and recommendations for ensuring MAT treatment to accessible to adolescents and young adults.
The following organizations have endorsed the YOUTH Act: American Academy of Pediatrics, American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, American Psychiatric Association, National Association of County and City Health Officials.