INSIDE THE ISSUE
MHA Endorses Markey’s Bipartisan Opioid Treatment Access Act
MHA is supporting bipartisan legislation that Senators Edward Markey (D-Mass.) and Rand Paul (R-Ken.) introduced last week that would, among other thigs, allow pharmacies to dispense methadone to patients as opposed to having people travel to clinics for treatment. The Senate Opioid Treatment Access Act would also allow patients to receive longer take-home supplies of methadone to treat opioid use disorder (OUD). The House version of the act was introduced in December 2021 by Representative Donald Norcross (D-N.J.).
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, federal regulations required patients to make daily trips to opioid treatment clinics in order to receive doses of methadone. This process increased the stigma associated with methadone treatment and placed unnecessary burdens on patients. By expanding take-home doses and allowing pharmacy dispensing of methadone, the Opioid Treatment Access Act would make it easier for patients who work, have kids, or live far from opioid treatment programs to adhere to treatment regimens and stay in recovery.
“This proposal would enhance that set of tools by helping providers reach patients where they are, and by expanding access to treatment that has saved countless lives to date,” said Leigh Simons Youmans, MHA’s senior director, healthcare policy. “MHA applauds Senator Markey and his co-sponsors for their leadership on this critical issue.” The Grayken Center for Addiction at Boston Medical Center and the Massachusetts Medical Society are among the many other healthcare groups that have endorsed the act.
Opioid-related overdoses and deaths are the public health epidemic we aren’t talking about,” Markey said. “By decentralizing opioid treatment, making permanent expanded access to take home methadone, and allowing access to this life-saving treatment at pharmacies, we can expand access, create opportunity, and set more people on a pathway to recovery.”
Fighting opioid use disorder has received bipartisan support in Congress, especially during the pandemic in which OUD- deaths have risen dramatically in both so-called “red” and “blue” states.
Hospital Case Management Discharge Escalation Process
MHA and Mass Senior Care this week are introducing a new process for alleviating one of the most persistent problems that has occurred during the pandemic – the difficulty in transferring patients from acute care settings to skilled nursing facilities (SNFs).
Even though the pandemic seems to be abating, hospitals are still at 90% capacity, which makes it imperative to move patients to other care settings when they are able to be transferred, thereby opening up more beds. But the transfer process has been fraught with difficulties, as the healthcare system as a whole faces workforce shortages, difficulty in arranging transportation options, capacity issues involving segregating COVID-19 patients from the general patient population, and more.
In response, MHA and Mass Senior Care have established the Post-Acute Care Transition (PACT) Collaborative – a mechanism for hospital discharge case managers to communicate with MHA and Mass Senior Care to escalate and address challenges in skilled nursing facility (SNF) placements. MHA and Mass Senior Care will work together to help facilitate timely discharge and SNF placement for patients.
In addition, MHA and Mass Senior Care will jointly convene bi-weekly meetings starting next week so that hospital directors of case management, skilled nursing facility administrators, admissions directors, and/or nursing directors in each of the five EMS regions of the commonwealth can discuss capacity constraints and escalate any issues to MHA and Mass Senior Care.
COVID-19 Oral Antivirals Available, By Prescription, Through Walgreens
Massachusetts informed providers that they can electronically send prescription orders for two COVID-19 oral antiviral medications – Paxlovid and molnupiravir – to select Walgreens pharmacies throughout the state. Patients with the prescriptions can pick up the medications free of charge even if they don’t have insurance on file. The oral antivirals are FDA approved for patients at higher risk of moderate to severe COVID-19.
Another therapeutic – sotrovimab – is given to patients through an infusion and is now available widely through the state at hospitals, the state-sponsored Gothams sites, and community health centers. The Massachusetts COVID-19 Therapeutics Locator shows sites and their quantities on hand.
DPH has also launched a webpage to further educate individuals on therapeutic treatment options if they’ve contracted mild to moderate COVID-19.
The Walgreens locations accepting provider prescription orders are located in Brockton, Cambridge, Chelsea, Chicopee, Danvers, Fall River, Falmouth, Fitchburg, Framingham, Franklin, Gardner, Greenfield, Haverhill, Lawrence, Lowell, Marshfield, Mattapan, New Bedford, North Adams, Northampton, Plymouth, Saugus, Springfield, Taunton, Waltham, Ware, Wareham, Webster, Weymouth, and Worcester.
Margret Cooke has been appointed Commissioner of the Department of Public Health, after serving as acting commissioner since June 2021. Prior to DPH, Cooke led the Health Care Division in the Massachusetts Office of the Attorney General. She holds a J.D. from Northeastern University School of Law, and a BA degree from Mount Holyoke College.
Of her appointment, MHA President & CEO Steve Walsh said, “Based on our work with the commissioner, we know that she has a clear understanding of the most complex healthcare issues facing the commonwealth and the work that must be done to mount solutions. We look forward to being her partner as we emerge from the pandemic and strive to make Massachusetts an even healthier place to live.”
Jennifer Barrelle is DPH’s new deputy commissioner. She was previously the department’s chief of staff.