DPH’s Bharel Has Ideas for Battling “Substance Misuse Disorders”

DPH Commissioner Monica Bharel, M.D., testified before the U.S. House Committee on Energy & Commerce last Tuesday, explaining how Massachusetts has been able to achieve success in curbing the opioid crisis. Bharel also offered suggestions on how Congress could help the fight going forward.
She noted that when federal funding is tied specifically to “opioids” it eliminates the flexibility states need to address the “changing landscape of substance misuse, addiction, and co-occurring mental health conditions.” She urged use of the more inclusive term “substance misuse disorders” that would allow states to use federal funding to address methamphetamine, cocaine, and benzodiazepines, which are often used with opioids, as well as “the long-standing challenge of alcohol misuse and addiction.”
Bharel urged Congress to give states the flexibility to make naloxone available over-the-counter, and to give them ready access to rapid urine fentanyl tests, which are currently unavailable due to federal law. The DPH Commissioner also urged Congress to remove federal barriers for methadone and buprenorphine, thereby allowing medication for opioid use disorder “to be regulated more similarly to other chronic disease treatments and available within traditional healthcare settings to increase access and reduce stigma.”