July 27, 2005
Legislation co-sponsored by Congressman Capuano that expands access to drug treatment passed overwhelmingly in the House this week. The bill, which already passed in the Senate, now awaits the President's signature. S. 45 amends the Drug Addiction Treatment Act (DATA) to lift the limits imposed on group practices for prescribing drug addiction treatments.
DATA allowed physicians to prescribe drug treatment medications to opiate addicts. However, the law placed a 30 patient limit on each treating physician. The law also limited group practices to 30 patients, regardless of how many physicians are members of the practice. This had the unintended effect of forcing doctors to turn away patients struggling with drug addiction.
S. 45 changes current law so that each individual participating physician in a group practice may treat up to 30 patients. Congressman Capuano has been working with his colleague, Rep. Mark Souder (R-IN), to increase awareness of this problem and to push for a change in current law after learning of the issue from Dr. Will Schmidt. Dr. Schmidt is a physician who practices at Massachusetts General Hospital's Charlestown Community Health Center. Doctors at the health center explained that they had a waiting list of patients seeking treatment and were unable to prescribe certain treatments because of the 30 patient limit. The current law was placing a severe limitation on facilities such as health centers and hospitals, establishments on the front lines of the fight against drug addiction.
"This bill expands access to an important method of treatment for those struggling with drug addiction. Increasing access to treatments will not end our very complex and tragic problem of substance abuse. However, removing the 30 patient limit for group practices increases the tools available to those fighting drug addiction," stated Congressman Capuano.
Contact: Alison M. Mills (617) 621-6208