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The Opioid Crisis: Impact of Physician Shortage
Abuse of opioids, both prescription versions and street drug varieties, in the United States has reached the crisis point, evidenced in part by the declaration of a public health emergency. This crisis is exacerbated by the simultaneous shortage of physicians available to provide treatment.
Extent of Opioid Crisis
A review of just a few facts about the use and abuse of opioids emphasizes the need for solutions.
- Official estimates report that more than two million Americans are dependent on or abuse prescription pain pills.
- Opioid overdoses increased 30 percent in 52 areas across 45 states, from July 2016 through September 2017, with opioid overdoes increasing 70 percent in the Midwestern region; opioid overdoses in large cities increased by 54 percent in 16 states.
- During 2016, more than 63,600 overdose deaths occurred in the United States; this figure includes 42,249 overdose deaths that involved an opioid (66.4 percent). In 2016, an average of 115 opioid overdose deaths occurred each day.
Federal Grants Awarded to Combat the Crisis
To help communities address opioid abuse, federal legislation establishing grant programs passed, notably in the 21st Century Cures Act, which created the Opioid State Targeted Response (STR) grants. These grants are administered by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
- STR grants – first year funding: In 2017, $485 million was made available in grants for increasing access to medication-assisted treatment, providing resources to first responders for emergency treatment, and improved access in healthcare settings to overdose reversal medications.
- Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA): CARA authorizes over $181 million be awarded over several years to respond to the epidemic and to greatly increase both prevention and treatment programs. Though signed into law in 2016, CARA’s funding must be appropriated by Congress. In May 2017, SAMHSA announced grants totaling several million for recovery community organizations to build addiction recovery networks and engage in public education.
- STR grants – second-year funding: SAMHSA released $485 million in funding to all 50 states, four U.S. territories and the free associated states of Palau and Micronesia.
- New funding: In September 2018, SAMHSA expects to release a separate $1 billion grant funding opportunity for areas hardest hit by the opioid crisis.
- Opioid State Targeted Response Supplement (STR Supplement): To bolster efforts already being made through the STR grant program, SAMHSA announced in FY 2018 the availability of supplemental awards to the STR grantees hardest hit by the opioid epidemic. The funds target 10 states with the highest rates of overdose deaths in 2015: Kentucky, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Utah and West Virginia.
Impact of Physician Shortage
According to an annual analysis commissioned by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), projections anticipate a likely shortage of 34,600 to 88,000 doctors by 2025, increasing to a shortfall ranging from 40,800 and 104,900 doctors by 2030. This physician shortage impacts healthcare to all patients, of course, but can be particularly impactful in the American healthcare system’s ability to address the opioid epidemic.
A new report finds 11 states and the District of Columbia lack enough providers certified to prescribe buprenorphine, the treatment that helps prevent relapses among addicts and is cited by experts as one of the keys to treating opioid addiction.
Adaptive Medical Partners, a premier physician recruiting firm, can help healthcare facilities and hospitals find providers with the appropriate certification to treat those suffering from the opioid crisis.