D.C. Attorney General Karl A. Racine on Tuesday joined a bipartisan coalition of 45 attorneys general encouraging some federal agencies to permanently extend telehealth flexibilities beyond the expiration of the coronavirus public health emergency for prescribing buprenorphine, an FDA-sanctioned drug designed to treat opioid use disorder.
The agencies contacted by the attorneys general were the Drug Enforcement Agency and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The letter was addressed to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland, Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra, DEA Administrator Anne Milgram and Assistant HHS Secretary Miriam Delphin-Rittmon.
The attorneys general explained in the letter that since the start of the pandemic in March 2020, the DEA allowed audio-visual telemedicine services for opioid patients in lieu of in-person evaluation — an option likely in jeopardy once the public health emergency is lifted.
“Protecting the health and safety of our residents is my top priority,” Racine said. “And that includes addressing and ending the opioid crisis that has had a devastating impact in the District, particularly on D.C.’s Black and brown communities. It is crucial that life-saving treatments for opioid use disorder are made accessible to all. And we can help do this by extending the pandemic telehealth flexibilities.”