Nurses see firsthand the devastating effects of the opioid crisis on their patients, communities, and perhaps even themselves or their families. ANA members have been forthcoming in their stories about access, treatment, and the pain they have dealt with each and every day working to fight this crisis. That’s why many are cheering the Trump administration’s work on the crisis, with the First Lady leading the administrative efforts for declaring it a national emergency, as nurses team with emergency responders, policymakers, law enforcement, and other stakeholders in the fight to turn the tide on the devastating effects of opioid abuse in local communities.
The statistics are sobering: 64,000 Americans lost their lives to drug misuse in 2016. The number of people misusing prescription opioids in 2015 is even more alarming, 12.5 million people. There is hope—however, a comprehensive approach is needed from the ground level all the way up through state and federal governments in order to address the crisis. ANA supports nurses who are facing this crisis head on through targeted continuing education, support of federal legislation that supports nurses to practice to the full extent of their training and education, and supporting/advocating for policies that allow APRNs to prescribe medication assisted therapy, which has proven effective in stemming substance use disorder.
Within the walls of Congress, there are currently over a hundred of bills aimed at addressing varying aspects of the opioid crisis. Two in particular are at top of ANAs priorities for opioid legislation. In the Senate ANA has signed on to support is Combating the Opioid Epidemic Act, introduced by Bob Casey (D-PA) and Ed Markey (D-MA). In the House, Reps. Paul Tonko (D-NY) and Ben Ray Luján (D-NM) introduced H.R. 3692, the Addiction Treatment Access Improvement Act with support from ANA and our nursing partners. The latter bill aims to build on the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act in order to allow clinical nurse specialists, certified nurse midwives, and certified registered nurse anesthetists to practice to the full extent of their training and education in prescribing buprenorphine.
Buprenorphine, however, is just one piece of the puzzle in treating opioid dependency. As with all medications used in Medication Assisted Therapies (MAT), it is just one part of a comprehensive treatment plan that includes addressing the underlying issues through counseling and participation in social support programs. Nurses play a primary role in comprehensive treatment plans and will continue to be integral in treating the most vulnerable populations throughout the country. ANA urges you to continue to voice your support in this fight by contacting your representatives and asking them to support H.R. 3692.