Strengthen the Addiction Treatment Workforce

ADM workforce

Our nation needs a stronger addiction treatment workforce to serve the needs of the millions of Americans living with addiction. There are too few physicians and other clinicians with the requisite knowledge and training to prevent, identify, and treat addiction.

Unfortunately, addiction training for the medical community is still too rare in America. In its January 2019 National Drug Control Strategy report, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy called for “training, professional incentives for entering the workforce, and establishing a greater level of standardization for care” to bolster the addiction treatment workforce.

Moreover, investments in the addiction specialist physician workforce are long overdue. While Addiction Psychiatry is a subspecialty that has been available as a career choice for board certified psychiatrists since 1994,  Addiction Medicine was first recognized as an American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) subspecialty in 2016, and it is racing to catch up with other medical specialties and subspecialties in terms of teaching and training opportunities.

Recent Advocacy Successes:

  • In 2018, Congress answered ASAM’s call for a new SUD workforce loan repayment program for treatment professionals who serve in Mental Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSAs) or counties that have been hardest hit by drug overdoses. This program was authorized in the Substance Use-Disorder Prevention that Promotes Opioid Recovery and Treatment (SUPPORT) for Patients and Communities Act. 
  • In 2018, ASAM also helped secure legislation that makes permanent the buprenorphine prescribing authority for qualified physician assistants and nurse practitioners; allows certain waivered practitioners to treat, immediately, up to 100 patients at a time with buprenorphine; and, ensures that physicians who have recently graduated in good standing from accredited medical schools or residency programs, who meet certain training requirements, qualify for a waiver to prescribe buprenorphine.  
  • In 2019, after many months of advocacy by ASAM and others, the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) launched a new grant program to expand accredited Addiction Medicine Fellowship (AMF) and Addiction Psychiatric Fellowship (APF) programs to train physicians to work in interprofessional teams in underserved, community-based settings that integrate behavioral health and primary care services. 
  • For fiscal year 2020, ASAM helped secure significant funding for policies that bolster the addiction treatment workforce, including $26.7 million to establish the Mental and Substance Use Disorders Workforce Training Demonstration and $12 million to establish the Loan Repayment Program for Substance Use Disorder Treatment Workforce.

Priorities Moving Forward

  • Federal legislation to increase the number of residency positions eligible for Medicare graduate medical education payments for hospitals that have, or are establishing, approved residency programs in addiction psychiatry, addiction medicine, or pain medicine. 
  • Increased funding for federally authorized student loan repayment programs for addiction treatment professionals who commit to working in underserved or high-risk communities. 
  • Increased funding for federally authorized programs that provide training opportunities for residents and fellows in addiction medicine and addiction psychiatry as well as nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and others who are willing to provide addiction treatment in underserved communities, including resources to incentivize the creation of addiction medicine training programs for children’s hospitals.