AAMC (Association of American Medical Colleges) President and CEO David J. Skorton, MD, and Chief Public Policy Officer Karen Fisher, JD, issued the following statement on the Senate introduction of the Opioid Workforce Act of 2021 (S. 1438), which would help support new residency positions to improve patient access to care and help address the substance use disorder epidemic:
“The AAMC commends Senators Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) for introducing the Opioid Workforce Act of 2021 to help address the devastating effects of substance use disorders and chronic pain, as well as the record number of overdose deaths that have only heightened during the COVID-19 pandemic. This bipartisan bill would expand the physician workforce by providing support for 1,000 new graduate medical education training positions over five years in hospitals that have—or are in the process of establishing—accredited residency programs in addiction medicine, addiction psychiatry, or pain medicine.
More than 20 million people in the United States have a substance use disorder, and the uncertainty of the COVID-19 public health emergency has made challenging situations even more difficult for these individuals, their families, and communities nationwide. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 81,000 drug overdose deaths occurred in the U.S. in the 12 months ending in May 2020, the highest number of overdose deaths ever recorded in a 12-month period. CDC data also show that synthetic opioids appeared to be the primary driver of the increases during that time. The pandemic has made access to harm reduction programs more difficult, increased isolation, and presented unique challenges for people with a substance use disorder and in recovery.
Academic medicine—the nation’s medical schools, teaching hospitals, and their physician faculty—is actively advancing a comprehensive response to the epidemic of substance use disorders even amid COVID-19. The AAMC is committed to working with Senators Hassan and Collins, as well as their Senate colleagues, to advance this important piece of legislation and strengthen our health care infrastructure by ensuring that there are enough doctors to provide those with a substance use disorder and chronic pain the high-quality care they need.”