WASHINGTON, D.C. – Last week, U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), Ranking Member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (Labor-HHS), along with her colleague, U.S. Senator Gary Peters (D-Mich.), introduced bipartisan legislation to reauthorize funding for a grant program that expands access to opioid addiction treatment for adolescents. The legislation, known as the Youth Prevention and Recovery Reauthorization Act, would build on previous legislation they introduced that was signed into law in 2018 as part of the Substance Use-Disorder Prevention that Promotes Opioid Recovery and Treatment for Patients and Communities (SUPPORT) Act that established the Youth Prevention and Recovery Initiative to make an existing substance abuse program available for young adults.
The legislation would also reauthorize funding for the initiative within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to ensure this critical resource remains available to adolescents, families, care providers, and communities.
“As we continue to battle addiction in West Virginia, unfortunately no populations have been spared,” Ranking Member Capito said. “Treating and preventing addiction in children, adolescents and young adults must remain a top priority. The bipartisan Youth Prevention and Recovery Reauthorization Act would do this by continuing initiatives aimed at preventing even more young people in West Virginia and across the country from becoming victims of this on-going epidemic.”
“The opioid epidemic is devastating communities in Michigan and across the country, and it’s tragic that the hundreds of thousands of young people suffering from this addiction are struggling to get the care they need,” Senator Peters said. “I’m again leading this bipartisan bill to reauthorize this critical program that helps expand lifesaving addiction treatments and resources for adolescents to help set them on a path toward recovery.”
“We applaud Senator Peters and Senator Capito for their commitment to expanding access to life saving substance use disorder treatment for youth and adolescents, particularly for racially and ethnically marginalized populations. Research supports treating patients, including youth, with opioid use disorders with FDA-approved medications as the gold standard and we believe this legislation is a critical first step towards improving access to services and better outcomes,” Larissa Mooney, MD, President of the American Academy of Addiction Psychiatry, said.
“Despite the availability of safe, effective, and lifesaving treatment, adolescents and young adults with substance use disorders face significant barriers accessing medication for addiction treatment. By reauthorizing SAMHSA's Youth Prevention and Recovery Initiative, the bipartisan Youth Prevention and Recovery Reauthorization Act would make needed progress to help ensure young people can access this vital treatment, while also addressing the unique barriers they too often face in getting the care they need. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) calls on Congress to advance this important legislation and thanks Senator Gary Peters (D-Mich.) and Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) for their leadership on this issue,” Sandy Chung, MD, President American Academy of Pediatrics FAAP, said.
“While it is incredibly difficult for anyone with addiction to access effective treatment, adolescents have exceedingly limited treatment options. In the midst of an unrelenting opioid crisis that is claiming the lives of far too many young people, it is critical for the federal government to provide resources to make evidence-based treatment, such as medications for the treatment of opioid use disorder, more widely available,” Lindsey Vuolo, Vice President of Health Law and Policy, Partnership to End Addiction, said.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA), more than 695,000 American adolescents used opioids for nonmedical reasons in 2018, up by more than 400,000 since the last study was conducted in 2015. In December 2022, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported that median monthly overdose deaths among persons aged 10–19 years (adolescents) increased 109% from July–December 2019 to July–December 2021.
The Youth Prevention and Recovery Initiative provides funding to hospitals, local governments, and other eligible entities to increase access to opioid addiction medications for adolescents and young adults who have been diagnosed with opioid use disorder, improve local awareness among youth of the risks associated with fentanyl, and train healthcare providers, families, and school personnel on the best practices to support children and adolescents with opioid use disorder.
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 Prevention and Recovery Reauthorization Act would reauthorize the Youth Prevention and Recovery Initiative, which has provided three-year grants to youth-focused entities for carrying out substance use disorder treatment, prevention, and recovery support services. The legislation also expanded an existing youth substance use disorder program at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to include services for young adults as well as children and adolescents. The authorization of the program, and the SUPPORT Act, expired on September 30, 2023.
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