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Expanding Access, Flexibility, and Empowerment for Patients

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Understanding the Revised Opioid Treatment Program (OTP) Regulations

More Options and Support on Your Road to Recovery

Did you know the revised federal regulations (rules), for opioid treatment programs (OTPs), seek to improve access to high-quality, evidence-based care focusing on your personal and treatment needs and goals? If you are currently a patient or plan to receive treatment at an OTP, you should know that the federal rules that govern OTPs were updated in February 2024. These rules aim to help more people recover in a supportive and empowering environment. The changes become law in October 2024. In the meantime, you may notice OTPs making changes to how they operate. States may also revise some of their regulations that impact how this rule is implemented. It will be important for you to be aware of your state’s requirements as well.

How Do the Changes Help You?

More Individualized Care Choices

The updates to the rules for OTPs promote a treatment environment that offers the flexibility to create plans of care centered on your aims and health. Admission requirements no longer rely on one-year of opioid addiction for adults and two unsuccessful attempts at withdrawal management (what used to be called “detox”) for people under 18 years of age. Also, the federal rules for counseling are now based on the patient’s needs and goals. These changes increase access to OTPs, support your recovery, and honor your choices.

Your Voice Matters

Your preferences and needs will be central to your treatment plan under the new “shared decision making” guidelines. You and your care team will work together to plan your treatment, based on the information you provide, your situation, your needs, and what is most important to you. Dosage changes, counseling approaches, access to take-home methadone doses, and other services will better reflect the goals that you help determine. The new rules promote trust and teamwork, and they respect your needs and circumstances.

“Meeting Patients Where They Are”

The approach of “meeting patients where they are” adds another dimension of understanding and compassion to care. Medications for OUD, especially methadone and buprenorphine, help people manage cravings and withdrawal symptoms, making it possible for people to feel better so they reduce or even stop using. With today’s dangerous drug supply; this can save your life. People can also make other positive changes in their lives with the help of services provided the care team at their OTP. However, treatment varies from person to person. What helps one person might not work for someone else. With these new rules, your care team will work with you to find an effective dose for you and other services you might find helpful in reaching your goals.

OTPs can also help you by providing information on ways to protect yourself if you are still using substances, such as resources to help with housing, food, and your other healthcare needs, to help you improve your quality of life and help to keep you in care.

More Providers and Convenient Access

The new rules expand the type of practitioners who can help and helps to bring treatment to where it is needed. It:

  • Adds new types of licensed practitioners who can order treatment, such as nurse practitioners and physician assistants and allows non-OTP practitioners to complete the initial screening exams for new patients.
  • Allows the use of telehealth, both audio-visual and audio-only, screening for initiation of buprenorphine and audio-visual screening for the initiation of methadone under certain conditions.
  • Use of mobile medication units will reduce travel distances for patients to receive their medication and other OTP treatment services.
  • Expands access to interim care, allows OTPs at full capacity to offer immediate medications to patients for OUD while working on referrals to the full array of comprehensive OTP services.

Lowering Barriers with Safeguards

The new rules remove obstacles to treatment that made it difficult for some people to enter or remain in treatment in the past. Practitioners are no longer required to follow rigid criteria to determine the number of take-home methadone doses for a given patient. Instead, they are now guided by harm reduction approaches, shared decision making with you, and considerations of your safety and unique circumstances. That helps balance the benefits and risks of methadone take-home doses.

Why Are These Changes Important to You?

These changes are about respect, trust, understanding, and compassion. Trusting that you understand what you need, while highly skilled OTP practitioners respect your values, needs, and preferences. The revised rules allow them to provide you with the best care available. They balance the need for responsive patient care with responsible ways to make sure you’re getting good care, all while providing you with consistency, humanity, support, and empowerment through your recovery journey.

Learn more about the updated 42 CFR Part 8 regulations.

Last Updated
Last Updated: 01/31/2024
Last Updated