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COVID-19 and Addiction Policy

The U.S. is in the midst of two declared public health emergencies: COVID-19 and an overdose epidemic. Now more than ever, addiction policy sits at the intersection of public health, criminal justice, and human rights. The COVID-19 pandemic has greatly affected the health services landscape across the country as the federal government waived federal related to medications and telehealth, and the shift in availability in harm reduction services and recovery support services:

Hill Briefing on COVID-19 and Addiction: Local Communities Respond

The O’Neill Institute held a virtual hill briefing with opening remarks from Congressman Paul Tonko (NY-20), to discuss the current state of addiction treatment and harm reduction in communities grappling with COVID-19. Speakers will highlight local community responses to the simultaneous public health emergencies of opioid-involved overdoses and COVID-19. In addition, participants will share how recently waived federal rules relating to medication based treatment and telehealth are being applied locally, as well as how congressional funding can best aid local communities.
Welcoming Remarks:
Congressman Paul Tonko (NY-20)
Steve Williams, Mayor, Huntington, West Virginia
Edwin Chapman, MD, Internal Medicine and Addiction Medicine specialist, Washington, DC
Allie Hunter, Executive Director, Police Assisted Addiction & Recovery Initiative (PAARI), Massachusetts
Stephen Loyd, MD, Medical Director, Cedar Recovery, Tennessee

Regina LaBelle, Director, Addiction and Public Policy Initiative, O’Neill Institute
Shelly Weizman, Associate Director, Addiction and Public Policy Initiative, O’Neill Institute

Virtual Roundtable: Addiction Policy and Practice in the Time of COVID-19

Wednesday April 8, 2020 | 12:00 pm ET

Speakers discussed the current state of access to treatment and harm reduction services for people with substance use disorders. Topics included recently waived federal regulations related to medications and telehealth, as well as the availability of harm reduction and recovery support services. Speakers will also discuss potential for a future state that builds on innovations borne out of this crisis to re-imagine our systems through the lens of health and equity. A moderated discussion followed the speakers’ presentations.

Brandon George, Vice President for Recovery, Advocacy and Programs for Mental Health America Indiana; Director, Indiana Addiction Issues Coalition
Yngvild Olsen, MD, MPH, is an addiction medicine specialist in Baltimore City, Vice President of the American Society of Addiction Medicine, and co-author of the book “The Opioid Epidemic: What Everyone Needs to Know.”
Joe Pritchard, CEO, Pinnacle Treatment Centers
Devin Reaves, MSW, CRS, Executive Director, Pennsylvania Harm Reduction Coalition
Regina LaBelle, Director, Addiction and Public Policy Initiative, O’Neill Institute; former Chief of Staff; Office of National Drug Control Policy in the Obama Administration
Shelly Weizman, Associate Director, Addiction and Public Policy Initiative, O’Neill Institute; former Assistant Secretary for Mental Hygiene; Office of Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York.

Expert Resources:

The Addiction and Public Policy Initiative and partners have created resources and provided insight on how policymakers and practitioners can balance two great public health emergencies.

Nation’s opioid addiction treatment system during COVID-19 needs reform, The Hill, Caleb Banta-Green, Regina LaBelle, Yngvild Olsen

Protecting the Vulnerable Substance Use Disorder Population During COVID-19, Bill of Health, Brandon George

Drug Courts and COVID-19, O’Neill Institute Blog, Regina LaBelle, Shelly Weizman

In the Media:

In addition to producing their own publications, the experts have provided commentary to journalists on the challenges of addiction policy during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Coronavirus Pandemic Complicates Opioid Treatment, The Wall Street Journal

Virus Pandemic, Opioid Epidemic Collide Around Social Distancing, Bloomberg Law

The Coronavirus Pandemic Has Made The Opioid Epidemic Even Worse, BuzzFeed News

Addiction Treatment Pivots for Coronavirus, Pew Trusts

How Harm Reduction Is Responding to the Pandemic, Filter Magazine