Helping the Helpers –
March 27, 2020 – “In every crisis that has occurred in this country, whether it’s earthquakes or hurricanes or floods, people have abused more substances,” said Dekker, an addiction and pain management specialist. To limit face-to-face contact and the need for daily dosing at clinics, the federal government has relaxed rules on when and how medications can be dispensed. Previously, practitioners were required to evaluate patients in person before prescribing medication; they can now prescribe following a telemedicine appointment. Opioid treatment programs can now request a blanket exemption to provide 28 days of take-home medication to stable patients and a 14-day supply for less stable patients considered capable of safely handling the drugs.
It’s critical for the government to continue to assess the ongoing impact of the pandemic on those in treatment and recovery, said Anthony Dekker, medical director of nine outpatient community clinics for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs in northern Arizona. Telemedicine, he said, can augment but not replace face-to-face contact.