The United States is experiencing an unprecedented epidemic of opioid use disorder and overdose. In 2015, more than 33,000 Americans died of an overdose involving a prescription or illicit opioid, and more than 2 million individuals had an opioid use disorder. In partnership with state and local governments, healthcare professionals, and other key stakeholders, HHS launched its Opioid Initiative in March 2015 and has taken significant steps to: 1) improve opioid prescribing practices; 2) increase the use of naloxone to reverse opioid overdoses; and 3) expand access to and the provision of medication-assisted treatment with methadone, buprenorphine, or naltrexone – in combination with appropriate psychosocial services.[i] The Department has also continued to prioritize reducing stigma and advancing prevention, treatment, and parity for people needing care for mental health and substance use disorders.
The success of these strategies – especially the third – rests on a base of health insurance coverage. What that means is that our nation’s best shot at reversing the opioid epidemic and providing needed care for opioid use disorders, others substance use disorders, and mental illness depends on the continued success of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).