The AAMC Dec. 5 hosted a Graduate Medical Education (GME) Day of Action to engage supporters of the Opioid Workforce Act of 2019 (H.R. 3414/ S. 2892) and urge Congress to pass the legislation. The Opioid Workforce Act would increase the number of Medicare-supported GME slots by 1,000 in addiction medicine, addiction psychiatry, and pain medicine and their prerequisite programs [see Washington Highlights May 3, Nov. 22].
The briefing opened with remarks by two lead sponsors of the Opioid Workforce Act, Rep. Brad Schneider (D-Ill.) and Rep. Susan Brooks (R-Ind.). Dr. Phil Roe (R-Tenn.), co-chair of the Congressional Academic Medicine Caucus also delivered remarks. Reps. Brooks and Schneider focused their remarks on the need for more providers who are trained to identify and treat substance use disorders (SUDs). All three members discussed the importance of addressing the opioid epidemic and how it has acutely impacted their lives and the lives of their constituents.
The briefing speakers included moderator Atul Grover, MD, PhD, AAMC executive vice president; Bradley Allen, MD, PhD, senior associate dean for medical education at Indiana School of Medicine; Scott Teitelbaum, MD, member of the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) board of directors, vice chair of the department of psychiatry and chief of the division of addiction medicine at the University of Florida (UF) School of Medicine, and medical director of the UF Health Florida Recovery Center; and Barbara Allen, executive director at James’ Place, Inc.
Dr. Allen focused his remarks on what Indiana University School of Medicine (IUSM) is doing to address the opioid epidemic across undergraduate medical education, GME, and continuing medical education. He specifically highlighted IUSM’s education and training efforts which include enhanced training in screening and referral, the expansion of training for primary care providers to deliver Medication-Assisted Therapy (MAT) for those with SUDs, expansion of SUD and mental health treatment and training sites statewide, and attention to training expansion for addiction therapists to serve state needs.
Dr. Teitelbaum highlighted that there are only 59 fellowships in addiction medicine across the country and emphasized how that number is insufficient to train enough providers to address the great need for patient access to providers. He also reminded the audience that while opioids are currently the major concern, addiction has been undertreated throughout history with stigma being a major contributing factor.
Barbara Allen concluded the panel by telling her personal story about her son, Jim, her brothers Bill and Tom, and her niece Amanda — all of whom she lost to addiction. Allen shared with the audience that after the death of her son, she realized how critical the need was to address stigma around the disease of addiction. She also highlighted the importance of supporting people in recovery, as well as their families, and shared her motto, “No shame or blame, just love.”
Throughout the day, the panelists, AAMC staff, and other stakeholders met with lawmakers and staff, urging them to support and ultimately pass the Opioid Workforce Act. Participants also took to social media using the hashtag #OpioidGME, which resulted in over a million people reached.