U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) introduced legislation today to help fight the nation’s opioid epidemic by increasing the number of doctors who treat those with an opioid addiction.
The legislation – known as the Opioid Workforce Act – would create 1,000 new Medicare-supported medical residency positions at hospitals throughout the country to train new doctors in addiction medicine, addiction psychiatry or pain management.
“Too many Floridians don’t have access to critical treatments for opioid addiction,” Nelson said. “We need to make sure we have the doctors and resources necessary to help fight this public health crisis.”
According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, the United States will have a shortage of between 40,800 and 104,900 physicians by 2030.
In 2016, there were over 5,200 opioid-related deaths reported in Florida – a 35 percent increase from the year before. Florida ranks 45th for the number of available behavioral health professionals to treat Floridians with an opioid addiction, according to the Pew Charitable Trusts. There are about 20 behavioral health providers available for every 1,000 Florida adults with a substance use disorder.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, only about one in 10 people in the U.S. over the age of 12 who needed substance abuse treatment received treatment at a specialty facility. That same report found that 1.168 million Floridians over the age of 12 needed but did not receive treatment for substance abuse.
If approved, Nelson’s bill would allow eligible hospitals to add up to 25 full-time residency positions in their opioid-related medical residency programs, including three in Florida: the University of Florida School of Medicine in Gainesville, the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville and the University of Miami in Miami.
The bipartisan bill (S. 2843) now heads to the Senate Finance Committee for consideration.
The text of the bill can be found here.