Last week the Senate HELP Committee (Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions) held a hearing on the opioid crisis. The testimony by ACA’s CEO, Richard Yep, highlighted the role counseling plays in fighting the crisis, and the advantages counselors bring to the battle. He explained that counselors are more frequently found in rural areas than other mental health professionals, that they often use a strengths-based approach and a wellness model, and that counseling is effective both by itself and in conjunction with medication. The testimony covered the role of Counselors who participate in a SAMHSA (the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) program known as Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) which is the use of medications in combination with counseling and behavioral therapies to provide a comprehensive approach to the treatment of substance use disorders.
Mr. Yep told the Committee that, “It is well-documented that the majority of people with opioid addiction in the U.S. do not receive treatment. Put simply, it is easier to get heroin, and other opioids, than it is to get help. Counselors provide help.” He explained that many types of counselors, not just those who specialize in addiction counseling, work with clients who are affected by the opioid crisis. He also described some of the common treatment strategies.
The HELP Committee oversees legislation that affects health policy, such as the 21st Century Cures Act that passed last winter and implemented new programs that address behavioral health. The hearing was part of Congress’s ongoing effort to combat opioid addiction throughout the country.