Senate Passes Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act

Senator Collins Announces that Nurse Practitioners and Physician Assistants Will be Able to Dispense Buprenorphine for Opioid Addiction Treatment

            WASHINGTON, D.C.—The U.S. Senate passed the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, or CARA, Conference Report, cosponsored by U.S. Senator Susan Collins, this afternoon by a vote of 92 to 2.  Among many other provisions, this bipartisan legislation will allow nurse practitioners and physician assistants who meet certain criteria to dispense buprenorphine for opioid addiction treatment for the first time. 

Nurse practitioners and physician assistants are playing increasingly important roles in the delivery of health care, particularly in rural and underserved areas of our nation, including in Maine.  Previously, only certain doctors could prescribe buprenorphine for the treatment of opioid addiction, limiting its availability to patients.  Allowing nurse practitioners and physician assistants to seek approval to dispense buprenorphine will greatly increase access to treatment for opioid addiction for many individuals in need.  Nurse practitioners and physician assistants will be able to treat up to 30 patients in the first year and up to 100 patients going forward. 

“I am so pleased to announce that the Senate has sent a bill to the President’s desk that will better equip our dedicated healthcare professionals on the front lines of the opioid and heroin epidemic and increase access to addiction care for patients in Maine and across our country,” said Senator Collins.

“Research and considerable clinical experience have demonstrated that buprenorphine can be an effective treatment for some individuals with opioid addiction,” Senator Collins continued.  “Unfortunately, federal regulations have made it difficult for millions of Americans to access this proven treatment, particularly in large rural states like Maine.  This lack of access has created a huge disparity between health care providers who are authorized to prescribe opioids and those who can prescribe treatments for opioid addiction.  Alarmingly, only 10 percent of the 23 million Americans struggling with addiction receive any treatment. 

“We must use every tool at our disposal as we work to address this burgeoning epidemic.  The passage of this legislation is a meaningful step forward in our efforts to combat this public health crisis and ensure that those struggling with addiction have access to effective, often lifesaving treatments.”

Senator Collins has long advocated for increased access to buprenorphine. In August of 2015, Senator Collins, along with a bipartisan delegation of Senators, wrote a letter to Secretary Burwell urging to consider expanding the ability of nurse practitioners and physician assistants to treat opioid addiction using buprenorphine.